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African Americans Have The Highest Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

According to a report by the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Center, the incidence rate among Blacks is 30 to 70% higher than other racial groups in America. Not only is the incidence rate of pancreatic cancer higher among African Americans, they also have the poorest survival rates because their cancer is most often diagnosed at more advanced stages.

Smoking Affect On Increased Risk

By some studies cigarette smoking accounts for 25 to 30% of diagnosed pancreatic cancer and doubles the risk of getting pancreas cancer regardless of racial group. However, smoking rates among Blacks in America have historically been higher versus the rest of the US population but today that gap is declining. Most studies show that smoking is the most preventable cause of pancreatic cancer.

Overweight Risk Factors Among Blacks

Significant overweight can cause Type 2 Diabetes which is a pancreas cancer risk factor. The Department of Human Services Office of Minority Health statistics shows 31% of Black men and 39% of Black women over the age of 18 are significantly overweight compared to 26% of White men and 23% of White women.

Type 2 Sugar Diabetes

Over 80% of people that have Type 2 Diabetes are overweight. Studies show that Type ll Diabetes is a significant risk factor and is more common among Blacks than Whites. The Department of Human Services Office of Minority Health says 31% of Black men and 39% of Black women over the age of 18 are obese or significantly overweight compared to 26% of White men and 23% of White women. According to the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Center, Type 2 Diabetes can double the risk of pancreas cancer.


There are two types of pancreatitis. Acute and Chronic. The acute type is sudden onset and chronic type is longstanding and often caused by sustained heavy alcohol abuse. Multiple attacks of acute or chronic types can cause pancreatic cancer. Studies show that Blacks are at a higher risk of developing pancreatitis of any other racial group.

Socioeconomic and Poverty

There have contradicting studies of whether or not socioeconomics are risk factors. Most studies deem it a heightened risk of pancreatic cancer. Lower income people tend to smoke more and are less likely to exercise proper nutrition with less access to quality healthcare. According to the US Census Bureau, African Americans account for about 25% of poverty in America.

It is interesting to note however that in spite of Native Americans and Hispanics having a large percentage of poverty, they actually have a lower incidence rate of pancreas cancer than do American Whites.

It is also interesting that world countries with overwhelming Black populations that have extreme levels of poverty actually have a significantly less incidence rate than do African Americans. Such countries include those in Africa, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. That may indicate that particular diets, conditions that require higher levels of physical activity, low obesity rates and low smoking rates may be positive mitigating factors. See The world wide incidence rates.

Obesity and Overweight Average Percent By Race (2011)*

Racial Group All Adults African American Hispanic/Latino White Asian
Average % 34.9% 47.8% 42.5% 32.6% 10%

*Source: State of Obesity


Pancreatic Cancer Incident Rate By Race per 100,000 (2011)**

Racial Group All Races African American Hispanic/Latino White Asian
Female 10.9 14.2 10.2 10.7 8.9
Male 14.0 17.2 12.2 14.0 10.7

**Source: National Cancer Institute

More Reference

US Department of HHS Office of Minority Health Statistics
Diabetes in African Americans
Black Incidence of Pancreatic Cancer versus Whites
National Institute of Health Race Incidence Facts
Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Center on African American Study

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