Can Pancreatic Cancer Be Prevented?

There is no sure way to prevent pancreatic cancer. Some risk factors such as age, gender, race, and family history can’t be controlled. But there are things you can do that might lower your risk.

Don’t smoke

Smoking is the most important avoidable risk factor for pancreatic cancer. Quitting smoking helps lower risk. If you smoke and want help quitting, please talk to your health care provider or call us at 1-800-227-2345.

Watch your diet, body weight, and physical activity

Getting to and staying at a healthy weight might help lower your risk. Getting regular physical activity can help you stay at a healthy weight and may also reduce your risk of pancreatic cancer risk.

Processed and red meats and sugary drinks may also increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends following a healthy eating pattern that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and that limits or avoids red and processed meats, sugary drinks, and highly processed foods. For more, see the American Cancer Society Guidelines for Diet and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention.

Avoid alcohol use

Heavy alcohol use has been tied to pancreatic cancer in some studies. Heavy alcohol use can also lead to conditions such as chronic pancreatitis, which is known to increase pancreatic cancer risk. It’s best not to drink alcohol. If you do drink, you should have no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 drinks per day for men.

Limit exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace

Avoiding workplace exposure to certain chemicals may reduce your risk for pancreatic cancer.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Beavers TB, Brown PH, Maresso KC, Hawk ET. Chapter 23: Cancer Prevention, Screening, and Early Detection. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Dorshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa. Elsevier: 2014.

Fernandez-del Castillo C and Jimenez RE.  Epidemiology and nonfamilial risk factors for exocrine pancreatic cancer. UpToDate website. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/epidemiology-and-nonfamilial-risk-factors-for-exocrine-pancreatic-cancer. Updated May 14, 2018. Accessed January 2, 2019. 

Rock CL, Thomson C, Gansler T, et al. American Cancer Society guideline for diet and physical activity for cancer prevention. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2020;70(4). doi:10.3322/caac.21591. Accessed at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.3322/caac.21591 on June 9, 2020.

Winter JM, Brody JR, Abrams RA, Posey JA, Yeo CJ. Chapter 55: Cancer of the Pancreas. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2019.

Last Medical Review: February 11, 2019 Last Revised: June 9, 2020

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