Pancreatic cancer epidemiology: understanding the role of lifestyle and inherited risk factors

Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2021 Jul;18(7):493-502. doi: 10.1038/s41575-021-00457-x. Epub 2021 May 17.


Pancreatic cancer is a leading cause of cancer death worldwide and its global burden has more than doubled over the past 25 years. The highest incidence regions for pancreatic cancer include North America, Europe and Australia, and although much of this increase is due to ageing worldwide populations, there are key modifiable risk factors for pancreatic cancer such as cigarette smoking, obesity, diabetes and alcohol intake. The prevalence of these risk factors is increasing in many global regions, resulting in increasing age-adjusted incidence rates for pancreatic cancer, but the relative contribution from these risk factors varies globally due to variation in the underlying prevalence and prevention strategies. Inherited genetic factors, although not directly modifiable, are an important component of pancreatic cancer risk, and include pathogenic variants in hereditary cancer genes, genes associated with hereditary pancreatitis, as well as common variants identified in genome-wide association studies. Identification of the genetic changes that underlie pancreatic cancer not only provides insight into the aetiology of this cancer but also provides an opportunity to guide early detection strategies. The goal of this Review is to provide an up-to-date overview of the established modifiable and inherited risk factors for pancreatic cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Comorbidity
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / etiology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / mortality
  • Risk Factors