The concept of pancreatic cancer origin is controversial. Acinar, ductal or islet cells have been hypothesized as the cell of origin. The pros and cons of each of these hypotheses are discussed. Based on the world literature and recent observations, pancreatic cells seem to have potential for phenotypical transdifferentiation, i.e ductal-islet, ductal-acinar, acinar-ductal, acinar-islet, islet-acinar and islet-ductal cells. Although the possibility is discussed that cancer may arise from either islet, ductal or acinar cells, the circumstances favoring the islet cells as the tumor cell origin include their greater transdifferentiation potency into both pancreatic and extrapancreatic cells, the presence of a variety of carcinogen-metabolizing enzymes, some of which are present exclusively in islet cells and the growth factor-rich environment of islets.