Between 5 and 10 per cent of pancreatic cancers are believed to be hereditary. So-called familial cancers are linked to a faulty gene that runs in families. Not everyone who carries the gene will develop the disease, however their risk is higher and people are advised to make lifestyle changes to manage this risk.
Genetic risk factors for pancreatic cancer
The BRCA2 genetic defect associated with breast cancer is linked to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. So too are faulty PRSS1 BRCA1, PALB2 and CDKN2A genes, particularly when there is a first degree relative (sibling or parent) with the disease.
Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, Lynch Syndrome/hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer and familial atypical multiple mole melanoma syndrome also increase your risk.
If you have a first degree relative with pancreatic cancer, you are 62-76% more likely to develop the disease. You are also at greater risk (45%) if you have a first degree relative with prostate cancer.
Genetic testing can help the 10%
The majority of cases of pancreatic cancer are not hereditary. However, for the 10% that are linked to faulty genes, a simple genetic test can help to identify who is at risk.
Ten percent may seem like a small number, but if a member of your family has pancreatic cancer, you may wish to take a genetic test to ascertain your level of risk. The test is relevant even if you have no symptoms.
Pancreatic Cancer Prevention Tips
If the test confirms that you are at risk, you there are some steps you can take to minimise your chances of developing pancreatic cancer.
Statistics suggest that nearly a third (31%) of cases of pancreatic cancer are preventable so it is important to take action to safeguard against the disease, particularly if you carry a faulty gene:
- Talk to your doctor – they can refer you to a specialist in pancreatic disease who may suggest regular monitoring using a CT scan.
- Quit smoking tobacco –In the UK, 22% cases of pancreatic cancer are caused by smoking. By giving up, you can reduce your risk level to the same as a non-smoker within 12 years.
- Reduce your alcohol intake – Heavy drinking can cause pancreatitis, which is linked to a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet – There is some evidence that eating high quantities of red meat can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer in men. Large amounts of saturated fat can also trigger the disease, while eating green vegetables may help to prevent the condition.
- Maintain a healthy weight – being overweight places you at higher risk of pancreatic cancer, along with other serious conditions. Twelve per cent of pancreatic cases are linked to obesity. People who are overweight produce higher levels of insulin, which can trigger the disease. Consequently having diabetes also increases your risk of pancreatic cancer. If are diagnosed with diabetes, talk to your doctor about your increased cancer risk.
- Talk to your doctor if you have Hepatitis B as your risk of pancreatic cancer increases if you have the disease for any length of time. There is also some evidence to suggest that Hepatitis C may heighten your risk.
- Talk to your doctor about hereditary cancer testing – if you have a family history and are concerned about your risk, a genetic test can help give you some answers.
Hereditary Cancer Test
Why Get Tested?
Each year, November is Pancreatic Awareness Month. Myogenes are committed to raising the awareness of hereditary cancers, including pancreatic cancer, that can be detected early using a simple saliva-based genetic test.