Pancreatic cancer may only account for 3 percent of cancers in the United States, but rates are on the rise. In fact, deaths caused by pancreatic cancer are expected to surpass deaths by colorectal cancer by 2020, becoming the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths, according to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
Like other types of cancer, you can’t control all your risk factors for pancreatic cancer. Your age, gender, race, and family history all play a role (and you can’t stop yourself from getting older).
However, there are many lifestyle factors that can affect your risk of pancreatic cancer. To lower your risk, consider these lifestyle changes:
1. Stop smoking (or don’t start)
Smoking cigarettes may actually double the risk of pancreatic cancer, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. That’s because cigarettes contain carcinogens (agents that can cause cancer), which damage DNA and may grow into cancer. Learn more ways that cigarettes affect the body here.
2. Find your healthy weight
Obesity increases the risk of all cancers, including pancreatic. In fact, the rise of obesity rates in the U.S. is one of the potential reasons pancreatic cancer is on the rise. That’s because obesity may create low-grade, chronic inflammation throughout the body, and inflammation can damage DNA over time and potentially lead to cancer.
Obesity also increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes, another risk factor for pancreatic cancer.
3. Drink in moderation—or not at all
The digestion of alcohol creates the toxic chemical acetaldehyde, another carcinogen that can damage DNA. Because of the byproduct acetaldehyde, excess alcohol consumption is linked to many types of cancer, including pancreatic cancer.
To reduce your risk of pancreatic cancer, stick to the guidelines for “moderate” drinking: up to one drink per day for women, or two drinks per day for men.
4. Reduce workplace exposure to certain chemicals
Some professions experience more exposure to carcinogens than others. For pancreatic cancer, this includes chemicals like pesticides (for those who work on farms and apply pesticides) or petrochemicals (for people who work with petroleum and natural gas). If you work in an industry that has a high exposure to carcinogenic chemicals, your company should train you on how to minimize your exposure. Following those safety precautions is crucial for your long-term health.
You might not have 100 percent control of preventing cancer, even with a “perfect” lifestyle, but healthy habits can greatly reduce your risk. Bonus: the same healthy habits to reduce your risk of pancreatic cancer can also help you live a longer and healthier life.