Some Cases of Pancreatic Cancer May Be Genetic

Pancreatic cancer was somewhat more likely for those with close relatives with the disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Parents may pass on more than eye and hair color to their children. New research suggests children may be more likely to develop pancreatic cancer if a parent had it.

Children with a parent or sibling with pancreatic cancer had a greater chance of getting the disease than people whose close relatives did not have it, a new study found.

Past research found that children often got pancreatic cancer at a younger age than their parents did, but this study did not find that to be true.

The research was done by Andrew V. Biankin, of the University of Glasgow in Scotland, and colleagues.

Their research also showed that people who smoked and developed pancreatic cancer often got the disease much sooner than people who didn't smoke.

“These findings are important because they suggest that the genes we inherit from our parents likely play a significant role in our lifetime risk of developing pancreatic cancer,” said Dr. Biankin in a press release. “Secondly, they emphasize that when assessing someone’s individual risk of developing pancreatic cancer, it may be important to assess not just family history of pancreatic cancer but other malignancies too. Finally, our data emphasize the importance of [not smoking].”

The authors looked at 766 people who had pancreatic cancer; 698 had sporadic pancreatic cancer (SPC), so they did not have a parent or sibling with the disease. The other 68 patients had familial pancreatic cancer (FPC).

Those who had FPC had an 8.9 percent greater risk for pancreatic cancer than people without a parent or sibling with the disease, this study found.

Members of the family of those with FPC were also twice as likely as people with SPC to have a close relative with another cancer, such as melanoma skin cancer or endometrial cancer.

Aside from having a parent or sibling with the disease, risk factors for pancreatic cancer include being obese, smoking and having diabetes, the study authors wrote.

Cancer of the pancreas is often found very late, and the odds of living five years are about 6 percent, reports the American Cancer Society. Researchers are trying to find ways to detect the disease early, the study authors noted.

This study was published Oct. 14 in Cancer.

Many sources funded the study, such as the Avner Nahmani Pancreatic Cancer Foundation and the Gastroenterological Society of Australia.

One of the study authors, Anthony J. Gill, MBBS, received funding from Novartis, Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

Review Date: 
October 11, 2014
Last Updated:
October 15, 2014