Family history of pancreatic cancer

This information explains family history of pancreatic cancer. This isn’t common, but sometimes pancreatic cancer can run in families.

Key facts

  • Sometimes cancers are said to ‘run in the family’.
  • This isn’t common in pancreatic cancer. It’s less than one in ten (10%) of pancreatic cancers. In most cases pancreatic cancer doesn’t run in families.
  • If pancreatic cancer does run in a family (familial pancreatic cancer), there may be two or more first degree relatives with pancreatic cancer. Or there may be three or more relatives with pancreatic cancer on the same side of the family. First degree relatives are your parents, brother, sister or child.
  • Pancreatic cancer that does run in families may be caused by a rare genetic condition. These conditions are sometimes called family cancer syndromes.
  • This means there is a faulty gene in the family that is linked to pancreatic cancer. Genes carry information that controls how our bodies work. We inherit genes from our parents.
  • Most of the family cancer syndromes linked to pancreatic cancer increase the risk of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.
  • A very small number of family cancer syndromes can increase the risk of pancreatic neuroendocrine cancers (also known as pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours or NETs).
  • Hereditary pancreatitis is a rare type of pancreatitis that runs in families. Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. People with hereditary pancreatitis may be more likely to get pancreatic cancer.
  • If you think pancreatic cancer runs in your family, speak to your doctor. If you do have a high risk, you may be able to have monitoring.

What are genes?

Genes carry the information that controls our appearance and how our bodies work. Genes come in pairs. We inherit one copy of each gene from our mother and the other from our father. We all have tiny differences in our genes that make us individual. For example, genes determine the colour of our eyes and hair.

Faulty genes

Occasionally, there may be changes in genes which mean that someone is more likely to get a disease. This type of change in a gene is often called a fault or mutation. Having a faulty gene doesn’t always mean someone will develop cancer.

Changes in genes can be inherited from a parent. Changes to genes can also happen during our lifetime, and these changes aren’t inherited from our parents. They may be caused by a random mistake when a cell divides. Or they may be caused by other things, such as smoking. These are much more common causes of cancer than inherited genetic faults.

A small number of genetic conditions are linked to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer

Read about genetic conditions that increase the risk of pancreatic cancer

Read our fact sheet about family history

To read more about family history of pancreatic cancer, download our fact sheet, Family history of pancreatic cancer.

Download our fact sheet
Thumbnail image of p.1 of the fact sheet

Questions about family history?

If you have questions or worries about family history of pancreatic cancer, speak to your doctor.

You can also speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line.

Speak to our nurses
Specialist nurse Rachel

References and Acknowledgements


Email us at for a list of sources used to write this information


We would like to thank the following people who reviewed our information on family history.

  • Dr Adam Duckworth, Consultant Histopathologist, Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Prof Bill Greenhalf, Professor of Molecular Oncology, University of Liverpool
  • Dr Fraser Duthie, Consultant Pathologist, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
  • Nikie Jervis (RGN) Patient Engagement, Education & Policy Lead, Neuroendocrine Cancer UK
  • Mr. Sanjay Pandanaboyana, Consultant Hepatobiliary Pancreatic and Transplant Surgeon
  • Dr Sharon Dixon, Health Experiences Research Group, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford
  • Pancreatic Cancer UK Information Volunteers
  • Pancreatic Cancer UK Specialist Nurses

Published June 2022

To be reviewed June 2025