Pancreatic cancer is often called a silent disease, because people are often unaware of any symptoms until the disease is quite far advanced. Although the causes are not well understood, there are a number of factors which are thought to increase the risk of people developing pancreatic cancer:
- Age: it mainly affects people aged between 50 and 80
- Being very overweight
- Smoking – around a third of cases are associated with tobacco use
- Having a history of health conditions such as diabetes, chronic pancreatitis or stomach ulcers
- Hereditary factors: around 1 in 10 cases of pancreatic cancers is inherited.
Worldwide there are around 460,000 new cases each year; in Europe more than 133,000 are diagnosed, while in the States there are 56,000. In the UK, around 10,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year, split roughly equally between men and women.