Although rare, pancreatic cancer is soon going to be the second largest cause of cancer deaths. Right now, pancreatic cancer is becoming more common. The rising rank in pancreatic cancer mortality reflects the advances in battling other malignancies. Proper screening and treatment have helped patients with other cancers like prostate, breast, and colon cancer to live long lives. Innovations like immunotherapy have unfortunately not worked well for pancreatic cancer. More than three-quarters of pancreatic cancer patients are between 55 and 84 years old.
Smokers face more than twice the risk of pancreatic cancer than non-smokers. The increasing rates of type 2 diabetes and obesity the new villains in the risk of pancreatic cancer and many other cancers. The reasons for these risks include:
- Low-level chronic inflammation
- Excessive insulin
- Too much hormones and growth factors released by fat tissue
- Metabolic abnormalities
The facts about pancreatic cancer are:
- Even if blood tests could detect pancreatic cancer at an early stage, its treatment will still need to be improved.
- Pancreatic tumors metastasize quickly.
- Five-year survival rates for pancreatic cancer have increased from 6 to 9% in recent years.
- Pancreatic cancer is preventable by cutting back on obesity, having a better diet, no smoking, and more exercise.
Researchers keep looking for early signs of pancreatic cancer in the tissue or the blood of people of 50 years of age and above who have recently been diagnosed with diabetes. The challenge is to find precise enough biomarkers to avoid emotional and costly false negatives and positives. The quest for blood tests for cancer (liquid biopsies) is one of the hottest areas in oncology. The tests reported have very bad specificity.