Diabetes Mellitus and Obesity as Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer

J Acad Nutr Diet. 2018 Apr;118(4):555-567. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2017.07.005. Epub 2017 Sep 12.


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is among the deadliest types of cancer. The worldwide estimates of its incidence and mortality in the general population are eight cases per 100,000 person-years and seven deaths per 100,000 person-years, and they are significantly higher in the United States than in the rest of the world. The incidence of this disease in the United States is more than 50,000 new cases in 2017. Indeed, total deaths due to PDAC are projected to increase dramatically to become the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths before 2030. Considering the failure to date to efficiently treat existing PDAC, increased effort should be undertaken to prevent this disease. A better understanding of the risk factors leading to PDAC development is of utmost importance to identify and formulate preventive strategies. Large epidemiologic and cohort studies have identified risk factors for the development of PDAC, including obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus. This review highlights the current knowledge of obesity and type 2 diabetes as risk factors for PDAC development and progression, their interplay and underlying mechanisms, and the relation to diet. Research gaps and opportunities to address this deadly disease are also outlined.

Keywords: Obesity; Pancreatic cancer; Prevention; Review; Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / epidemiology*
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / etiology
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology