Find out more about pancreatic cancer, including how common it is and ways to reduce your risk.
Pancreatic cancer is the ninth most common cancer in the UK. In 2019, 11,031 cases of pancreatic cancer were diagnosed*. There were 5,378 cases of pancreatic cancer in women, and 5,653 pancreatic cancer cases in men.
The pancreas is a gland and is about 15cm long. It’s found behind your stomach and in front of your spine. It has a head, a middle section (called the body), and a narrow end (called the tail).
The pancreas has two main roles in your body. It produces:
These hormones help your body use and store the energy it gets from food.
Your pancreas has two main types of cells. Exocrine cells produce digestive enzymes and endocrine cells produce hormones. The majority of pancreatic cancers start in the exocrine cells.
Pancreatic cancer develops when a change in the cells of the pancreas causes them to grow uncontrollably.
As with all cancers, the risk of developing pancreatic cancer depends on a number of factors and varies from person to person. Pancreatic cancer mostly affects men and women aged 50 and over.
If any of these risk factors apply to you, it does not mean that you will develop pancreatic cancer – it just means that your risk may be higher than average.
The good news is that there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk. This advice is based on research from our Continuous Update Project (CUP).
Our researchers have found that being overweight or obese, and carrying extra weight around your waist, increases your risk of pancreatic cancer. Try our body mass index calculator and waist measurement guide to check if you are a healthy weight and shape.
CANCER HEALTH CHECK
Answer a few simple questions to find out how your lifestyle could be making you attractive to cancer
What changes could you make to your life to reduce your risk of getting cancer?