Understanding genetic causes

We don’t fully understand exactly what causes pancreatic cancer, but we do know some risk factors, including a family history of the disease. This isn’t common – it’s less than one in ten (10%) of pancreatic cancers. It includes:

  • families with two or more first-degree relatives (parent, brother, sister or child) with pancreatic cancer
  • families with three or more relatives with pancreatic cancer on the same side of the family
  • families with a family cancer syndrome and at least one family member with pancreatic cancer. Family cancer syndromes are rare genetic conditions where a faulty gene increases the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Hereditary pancreatitis is a rare type of pancreatitis that runs in families. It usually starts in childhood. People with hereditary pancreatitis have a much higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer. The risk may be higher still for people who also smoke or have diabetes. The EUROPAC study is looking at hereditary pancreatitis to try to learn more about it.

Giving families hope for the future

We’re supporting the European Registry of Hereditary Pancreatitis and Familial Pancreatic Cancer (EUROPAC) by funding the registry for their study.

The only study of this kind in the UK, the EUROPAC registry focusses on two types of families – those with familial pancreatic cancer and those with hereditary pancreatitis – with the aim of finding out more about the genetic causes of the disease.

Find out more about EUROPAC

With so little known about the genetics of familial pancreatic cancer, large scale studies like EUROPAC give families like mine the best chance of a future screening test. For us EUROPAC means hope. Through their research and screening maybe we won’t have to lose any more of our precious family to pancreatic cancer.

Karen Bond, EUROPAC participant

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.

Specialist nurse Support Line