November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Before we dig a bit deeper into pancreatic cancer in this two-part blog post, below are some important stats you should be aware of. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and American Cancer Society:
- pancreatic cancer is the 4th leading cause of cancer-related death in both men and women in the U.S.
- 1.41% of men and women born today will be diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas at some time during their lifetime
- the median age for diagnosis of pancreatic cancer was 72 years old (based on data from ‘04-’08)
- the median age of death as a result of pancreatic cancer was 73 years old (based on data from ‘04-’08)
- 0.53% of men will develop cancer of the pancreas between their 50th and 70th birthdays compared to 0.39% for women
- About 44,030 people (22,050 men and 21,980 women) will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic Cancer Types
According to the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, “A pancreatic cancer type is based on the location of the tumor’s origin within the pancreas. More than 95 percent of pancreatic cancers are adenocarcinomas of the exocrine pancreas. Tumors of the endocrine pancreas are much less common and most are benign.”
- Acinar Cell Cancers: Acinar cell cancers are tumors that form on the ends of the pancreatic ducts.
- Adenocarcinoma: An adenocarcinoma is a cancer that begins in the cells that line certain internal organs and have secretory properties. In the pancreas, this is a cancer of the exocrine cells that line the pancreatic ducts.
- Cystic Tumors: Cystic tumors derive their name from the presence of fluid filled sacs within the pancreas. The fluid is produced by the lining of abnormal tissues or tumors. These tumors may lead to cancer in some patients; however, most cystic tumors of the pancreas are benign.
- Sarcomas: Sarcomas are tumors that form in the connective tissue that bonds pancreatic cells together and are rare.
Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors
- Age: Nearly 90% of those with pancreatic cancer are older than 55 years and over 70% are older than 65.
- Gender: Pancreatic cancer incidence rates are higher among men than women, but it is possible that this can be attributed to higher tobacco use incidence rates among men.
- Weight: According to the NCI, “In a pooled analysis of clinical data, higher body mass index was associated with an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer, independent of other risk factors.”
- Cigarette Smoking: According to the American Cancer Society, pancreatic cancer risk is 2-3x higher for smokers than non-smokers. About 20% to 30% of exocrine pancreatic cancer cases are thought to be caused by cigarette smoking.
Next week, we’ll follow up with more information on pancreatic cancer, including steps you can take to lower your risk (prevention), symptoms of cancer of the pancreas, and how pancreatic cancer is diagnosed and treated.
In the meantime, if you have questions about pancreatic cancer, please leave them for us in the comments below. All comment responses will be provided by physicians of Emory Healthcare and/or the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.