How Smoking Affects Pancreatic Cancer – Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

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A purple no-smoking symbol indicates that it affects the risk of diagnosis and death from pancreatic cancer

Editor’s Note: In recognition of World No Tobacco Day on May 31, this week Friday Fix includes smoking and pancreatic cancer. Established by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1987, World No Tobacco Day serves to remind the public of the dangers of smoking and other tobacco use.

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The dangers of smoking have been apparent to the public for years. And efforts to educate and provide smoking cessation options have worked โ€” smoking numbers have fallen in the United States and around the world, and smoking-related lung cancer diagnoses and deaths have fallen.

However, tobacco use has lesser-known consequences, including increasing a person’s risk of developing other cancers, such as: pancreatic cancer.

“People who smoke are two times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer compared to those who don’t,” said Joseph Herman, MD, MSc, MSHCM, interim chief medical officer at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN).

โ€œAbout 20 to 30% of exocrine pancreatic cancer cases – the most common form of pancreatic cancer – is attributed to smoking.”

Smoking not only increases a person’s chance of diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but it can also increase an individual’s risk of dying from the disease.

Research published showed in 2017 that the more and the longer someone smoked, the shorter the average pancreatic cancer survival time would be.

The good news is that the 2017 study โ€” and others โ€” found that the effects of smoking diminish over time. That means quitting today can have a significant impact on your future health.

โ€œEspecially for people who have other risk factors – such as a family history of pancreatic cancer or long-standing diabetes mellitus โ€“ it is crucial to stop smoking as soon as possible,โ€ Herman said. โ€œOther modifiable risk factors, such as maintaining a healthy diet and stay active, may further reduce a person’s lifetime risk of developing pancreatic cancer.”

Another reason to quit โ€” or not start โ€” smoking? Smoking weakens people’s lungs and immune system, which may make them more susceptible to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection and death.

Herman added: “This year’s World No Tobacco Day highlights the importance of preventing children and young adults from starting smoking – we at PanCAN wholeheartedly support this message.”

Contact an employee of the patient center
Contact PanCAN’s Patient Service for more information about the effects of smoking on pancreatic cancer and for other questions about pancreatic cancer risk factors and their diagnosis and treatment.

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