Pancreatic Cancer and Family History

Last Modified: May 8, 2012


I've heard that pancreatic cancer is rare. If that is true, what are the odds that I would have two relatives who both passed away from this disease?


Ursina Teitelbaum, MD, Medical Oncologist at Penn Medicine responds:

Pancreas cancer is not among the most common cancers (breast, lung, prostate, and colon) but it is among the most morbid so people hear a lot about it in the news and from friends. There are 30,000 cases diagnosed yearly in the United States.

Pancreas cancer is a disease of aging so as the population is getting older; we are diagnosing it more frequently and expect to see more cases. Two thirds of pancreatic cancer cases are diagnosed in patients that are 65 and older. It can also be weakly associated with tobacco usage.

There are familiar pancreatic cancer syndromes but these patients tend to be in their 20s and 30s. There are also increased incidences in families with Lynch syndrome or BRCA so it is important to know your family history, particularly of other GI cancers or breast cancer.

Often though, if your family members are older, there may not be an increased risk to you.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire transcript from the Focus on Pancreatic Cancer Webchat.