Why pancreatic cancer will be a bigger problem in the future

This high rate is explained by the impossibility of adequately treating this cancer at an advanced stage, which is often the case. In fact, this cancer is characterized by a silent course without obvious symptoms and metastasizes very quickly. By the time the first warning signs appear (jaundice, weight loss, fatigue, abdominal or back pain), the cancer has already spread to surrounding tissues (liver, lymph nodes). It is too late for surgical removal.

Why is there more pancreatic cancer?

Another worrying aspect of pancreatic cancer is that many specialists believe its effects are likely to worsen over the next few years. In addition, this disease could become the second leading cause of cancer deaths by 2030. A recent article summarizes the main factors behind this uptrend:

obesity and diabetes

Historically, smoking was the most important lifestyle factor associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer (the risk is twice as high in smokers). Normally, with the sharp drop in the number of smokers, we should have expected the incidence of pancreatic cancer to drop sharply. Similar to the steady decline in lung cancer cases seen over the past fifteen years. Unfortunately, those gains have been wiped out by skyrocketing rates of obesity and diabetes, which are also major risk factors for pancreatic cancer.

Better identification of cancer cells

With the continuous improvement of diagnostic tools (high-resolution imaging, highly sensitive genetic and biochemical tests), it is now possible to determine the origin of cancer cells more precisely. Tumors once classified as of unknown origin can now be identified and identified as pancreatic in origin.

Improving the effectiveness of treating multiple types of cancer

Screening and the development of new drugs have led to a significant reduction in mortality from breast, prostate and colon cancer. Unfortunately, these advances in the treatment of pancreatic cancer have not had the same success. As a result, an increasing proportion of cancer-related mortality is affecting patients with this type of cancer.

More obesity, more cancer

Excess fat represents a pathological condition associated with chronic inflammation. An overproduction of several growth factors and important metabolic disorders, which together promote the development of several types of cancer. Regarding pancreatic cancer, studies indicate that people who are overweight in early adulthood (20-49 years) are 150% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.

How to prevent pancreatic cancer

Avoid smoking: Maintaining a healthy weight and reducing your red and processed meat consumption in favor of plant-based protein sources are the best-known measures to limit the progression of these microtumors and prevent pancreatic cancer from developing. This is all the more important as we have a high risk of developing this cancer. Because autopsies performed on people who died from causes other than cancer show that 75% of the population has precancerous lesions in the pancreas.


Rahib L et al. Projecting cancer incidence and deaths through 2030: the unexpected burden of thyroid, liver, and pancreatic cancer in the United States. cancer res. 2014 ; 74:2913-2921.

Wallis C. Why Pancreatic Cancer is on the Rise. Scientific American, April 1, 2018. https://www.scientifica-merican.com/article/why-pancreatic-cancer-is-on-the-rise/

Read al. Body mass index, age at diagnosis and survival rate in patients with pancreatic cancer. JAMA 2009; 301: 2553-2562.

Cubilla AL and PJ Fitzgerald. Morphologic lesions associated with primary invasive non-endocrine pancreatic cancer in humans. cancer res. 1976; 36:2690-8.

* Presse Santé strives to convey health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace the advice of a doctor.

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Pancreatic Cancer Pancreatic Lesions Obesity

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