Reducing your risk for pancreatic cancer

You may lower your risk of developing pancreatic cancer by doing the following.

Be a non-smoker and avoid second-hand smoke

Smoking tobacco accounts for 20% to 30% of all pancreatic cancers. Not smoking is the best way to lower your risk for pancreatic cancer.

Live smoke-free. If you smoke, get help to quit. Don’t use any tobacco products, including chewing tobacco, cigars, cigarillos and pipes. Avoid second-hand smoke.

Maintain a healthy body weight

Research shows that obesity increases your risk for pancreatic cancer. You can lower your risk by having a healthy body weight. Eating well and being physically active can help you have a healthy body weight.

Limit alcohol

Drinking alcohol increases your risk of developing pancreatic cancer. To reduce your cancer risk, it's best not to drink alcohol. Canada's Guidance on Alcohol and Health outlines the health risks of alcohol and can help you make an informed decision on whether you drink and how much.

If you choose to drink alcohol, keep your cancer risk as low as possible by having no more than 2 standard drinks a week. The less alcohol you drink, the lower your cancer risk.

Find out more about how to limit alcohol.

Be physically active

Studies show that physical activity may lower the risk for pancreatic cancer.

Limit the amount of red and processed meats you eat

Studies show that eating a lot of red meat or processed meat may put you at higher risk for pancreatic cancer.

Follow workplace health and safety guidelines

Exposure to certain chemicals and working in certain occupations may increase the risk for pancreatic cancer. Follow workplace health and safety guidelines when working with hazardous chemicals.

Find out if you’re at high risk for pancreatic cancer

Some people can have a higher than average risk for pancreatic cancer. Talk to your doctor about your risk. If you are at higher than average risk, you may need a personal plan for testing.

More information about preventing cancer

Learn about what you can do to prevent cancer.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Pancreatic Cancer. 2016.
  • Dragovich T, Harris JE, et al . Pancreatic cancer. eMedicine.com. Omaha: eMedicine, Inc; 2011.
  • National Cancer Institute. Pancreatic Cancer Treatment (PDQ®) Patient Version. 2016.
  • Royal RE, Wolff, RA, Crane, CH . Cancer of the pancreas. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, & Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology. 9th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2011: 82:961-989.
  • Winter JM, Brody JR, Abrams RA, Lewis NL, Yeo CJ . Cancer of the pancreas. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: 49: 657-684.
  • World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) / American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). Continuous Update Project Report Summary. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Pancreatic Cancer. WCRF / AICR; 2012.