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Protect Yourself From Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors
Pancreatic cancer is often called the silent killer. Presently there is no method of early detection. Symptoms at early stages are vague and very similar to less serious and short-term illnesses. By the time symptoms worsen and become of significant concern, the cancer has usually spread beyond the pancreas making it difficult to treat. The best way to protect yourself is being aware of the risk factors modifying those risk factors within your control.
Can You Prevent Getting Pancreatic Cancer?
No. But you can minimize the risk. A risk factor is anything that increases the chance of getting the disease. Many risk factors are outside of control like advancing age, race, gender and family
history where inherited gene changes can be passed from parent to child. However, there are risk factors you can avoid.
Risk Factors Within Your Control
SMOKING. Most researchers and clinical studies conclude that smoking is the major contributing factor. The risk of getting pancreatic cancer is about twice as high among smokers compared to those that have never smoked. Cigarette smoking releases carcinogenic chemicals into the blood stream that damages the pancreas. Although to a lesser extent, smokeless tobacco, and cigar tobacco also increase risk.
TYPE 2 DIABETES. Most studies show that Type 2 Diabetes is the second highest risk factor of developing pancreatic cancer right behind cigarette smoking. While Type 1 Diabetes (also known as Juvenile Diabetes} is diagnosed at very early childhood, and requires insulin injections, Type 2 is diagnosed later in life and is often called Adult Onset Diabetes.
About 95% of all diabetics are type 2 where the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to keep blood sugars in normal range. While type 1 diabetes is not preventable, type 2 is most often preventable with healthy diet and exercise. Obesity and sedentary lifestyle are primary causes of type 2 diabetes. Talk to your physician on how to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
CHRONIC PANCREATITIS. Pancreatitis is a serious inflammation of the pancreas. The acute form is often caused by gallstones and most studies show no connection to pancreatic cancer. But chronic pancreatitis which is a recurring type is a very serious risk. The chronic version can be hereditary, but is usually caused by excessive, long term abuse of alcohol.
Risk Factors Beyond Your Control
AGING. The risk of getting pancreatic cancer increases with age. The average age at diagnosis is 71 and about 85% of case occur over age 55. However, there many cases of younger patients. In fact, consider this. Studies show that it takes about 11 years for the first mutated cancer cell to develop and another 7-10 years to form a tumor that reaches a metastasis stage of spreading beyond the pancreas. Therefore the genesis of the cancer combined with later stage metastasis actually occurs at a much younger age. The message? it is never too early to begin modifying controllable risk factors.
FAMILY HISTORY. It is believed that about 10% of pancreatic cancer is caused by inherited gene mutations in DNA. Inherited changes explain why pancreatic cancer runs in some families. Some mutations can be acquired after birth which can be considered as random bad luck or exposure to chemicals that are carcinogenic.
RACE AND GENDER. Across all races, men are 30% more likely to get cancer of the pancreas than women. Blacks are about 25%-30% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer that Whites. Asians are least likely to contract the disease and Hispanic and American Indian incidence rates lie in between those of Black and White races. Differences of incidence rate among races are likely due to obesity level, rates of smoking, healthy diet, sedentary lifestyle and socioeconomic factors.