Pancreatic Cancer Diet and Prevention

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on August 15, 2022
2 min read

Pancreatic cancer often grows and spreads silently before it's discovered. For this reason, most cases of pancreatic cancer are difficult to treat.

The uncomfortable fact is that anyone can get pancreatic cancer. A few risk factors for pancreatic cancer have been identified, but many people who get pancreatic cancer have no risk factors.

Cigarette smoking is one controllable risk factor for pancreatic cancer. People who smoke are about twice as likely to get pancreatic cancer as are nonsmokers.

Fortunately, the reverse is also true. After quitting smoking, the risk for pancreatic cancer steadily falls, eventually falling to the same risk as a nonsmoker after 10 to15 years.

Large studies also point to obesity and inactivity as potential risk factors for pancreatic cancer. People who exercise regularly have about half the risk of pancreatic cancer as sedentary people do.

Other factors such as coffee and alcohol consumption and use of aspirin and NSAIDs have not been consistently shown to increase (or decrease) the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Exercising, keeping a healthy weight, and not smoking should somewhat reduce the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

Numerous studies have tried to identify which foods, if any, contribute to developing pancreatic cancer. The results don't allow any firm conclusions:

  • A typical American diet, high in fat and smoked or other processed meats, has been associated with pancreatic cancer in some but not all studies.
  • A healthy diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables seemed to protect against pancreatic cancer in some but not all studies.
  • In experiments, lab rats fed a high-protein, high-fat diet were consistently found to develop pancreatic cancer. However, laboratory data doesn't necessarily apply to people.

No diet has been proven to change your risk for pancreatic cancer. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, with lean meats in moderation, is the best diet for overall health.

Bottom line: There is no definite technique to prevent pancreas cancer. However, not smoking, exercising, and eating a proper diet is the best lifestyle choice for overall health.