Pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer is the neoplasm that originates in the pancreas, an organ that secretes compounds involved in the digestion process and the maintenance of glucose homeostasis. It is one of the most aggressive tumors of the digestive tract, usually due to its late diagnosis. It is an uncommon cancer, representing 2% of all diagnosed neoplasms.

In general, the causes of pancreatic cancer are unknown. Most cases are considered sporadic, with hereditary cases being less common. In addition to genetic risk factors such as Peutz-Jeghers syndrome or Li-Fraumeni syndrome, other non-hereditary factors have been identified:

  • Age and sex. 80% of pancreatic tumors are diagnosed in individuals over 60 years old, with males being slightly more affected.
  • Tobacco consumption is the most significant environmental risk factor, directly related to 25% of pancreatic cancer cases.
  • Exposure to toxic substances such as chlorinated hydrocarbon-based solvents, nickel, silica dust, or asbestos.
  • Excessive consumption of red and processed meat. Some studies have linked the overconsumption of red meat to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.
  • Obesity.
  • Diabetes. This condition is present in 40% of pancreatic cancer cases and has been postulated as a possible cause for its development.
  • Pancreatitis.
  • Infections, such as those caused by Helicobacter pylori and hepatitis B.

Symptoms

Typically, pancreatic cancer does not present symptoms in its early stages, which greatly complicates its early diagnosis. When these symptoms do appear, the tumors have often already grown significantly or spread outside the pancreas. The most common symptoms include:

  • Jaundice and itching of the skin.
  • Pale or greasy stools.
  • Dark urine.
  • Fatigue and weakness.
  • Increased blood sugar levels.
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen or belly.

Prevention

There is no guaranteed way to prevent pancreatic cancer. However, there are measures that can be taken to try to reduce its risk:

  • Avoid tobacco. Smoking is the most important and preventable environmental risk factor.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle, keeping a healthy weight, and promoting the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and fiber-rich foods while avoiding red and processed meats.
  • Avoid exposure to toxic chemicals that can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Number of observed variants

13.5 million variants

Number of risk loci

13 loci

Genes analyzed

CTRB1 ETAA1 GRP HNF1B HNF4G MKLN1 NOC2L PDX1 SOX9 SUGCT TERT TP63 XBP1 ZNRF3

Bibliography

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