Pancreatic cancer: epidemiology and risk factors

Dig Dis. 2010;28(2):355-8. doi: 10.1159/000319414. Epub 2010 Sep 1.


Ductal adenocarcinoma of the pancreas has an incidence of approximately 10 per 100,000 population per year. This number pertains to Europe, North America and parts of South America (Argentina). Men are more often afflicted than women (female:male ratio of about 1:1.5, though reports vary). There has been a very small but steady increase in the incidence over the last 50 years. Unfortunately, numbers for incidence and mortality are still practically identical for this cancer. The peak of incidence is between 60 and 80 years of age. In absolute numbers, there are 8,000 cases diagnosed annually in Germany, and 33,000 in the US. Pancreatic cancer at <40 years of age is extremely rare (2 cases per million per year), but among 80-year-olds, the incidence is about 200 new cases per 100,000 population per year. In men, carcinoma of the pancreas is the fourth most common cause of cancer death after lung, prostate and colorectal cancer. In women, it is the fifth most common cause of cancer death. Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include high-fat diet, smoking, chronic pancreatitis, primary sclerosing cholangitis, hereditary pancreatitis, family history of pancreatic cancer and diabetes mellitus. In chronic pancreatitis, the risk for pancreatic cancer is increased 20-fold, in hereditary pancreatitis it is 60-fold higher than in the general population. In a kindred with 2 first-degree relatives with pancreatic cancer, the risk for pancreatic cancer for other members of that kindred is 7-fold higher.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / epidemiology
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / epidemiology
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / pathology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Risk Factors