Is Pancreatic Cancer Hereditary?

Pancreatic cancer develops in the small part of the lower stomach, known as pancreas. It affects the digestion, metabolism, and other stomach activities.

There are several reasons for pancreatic cancer – like diabetes, heredity, chronic pancreatitis, inflammation in the pancreas, or genetic syndromes.

In most cases, pancreatic cancer is diagnosed at a stage where it is not curable. This is because, at an early stage, there are almost no symptoms.

In this article, let’s discuss more about the hereditary pancreatic cancer. And how generics are linked with pancreatic cancer.

1. Pancreatic Cancer: A Lethal Adversary

Is pancreatic cancer hereditary
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Before understanding whether pancreatic cancer is hereditary or not, let’s understand about pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is also known as a silent killer or Grim Prognosis. Pancreatic cancer risks the life of the person.

1.1. Pancreatic Cancer Overview

Pancreatic cancer happens in the lower part of the stomach known as the pancreas. The pancreas secretes juices that help to maintain digestion. It also helps in maintaining metabolism.

When the cells start to develop in the pancreas, it results in pancreatic cancer. Developing pancreatic cancer can not be detected at an early stage because, during the development of pancreatic cancer, there are no symptoms.

1.2. Types Of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancers can be divided into two primary types:

1.2.1. Exocrine Pancreatic Cancer

Exocrine enzymes help in the digestion of food products in the stomach. When the development of pancreatic cancer takes place in the exocrine glands, it is known as Exocrine pancreatic cancer. This pancreatic cancer disturbs the processes of the stomach, mainly digestion.

1.2.2. Endocrine Pancreatic Cancer

Endocrine cells are responsible for producing hormonal enzymes. When development of pancreatic cancer takes place in the endocrine glands of the pancreas, it is known as Endocrine pancreatic cancer. This pancreatic cancer affects the production of hormonal enzymes.

1.3. Aggressive Nature

Pancreatic cancer is aggressive because pancreatic cancers can not be detected in an early stage. Pancreatic cancers are always detected at later or untreatable stages. This increases the risk of pancreatic cancer. Moreover, the symptoms of pancreatic cancers can be too light such as weight loss or no appetite.

1.4. Survival Rates of Pancreatic Cancer

In the United States, the risk of pancreatic cancer is increasing. There is a 5-year survival rate. That is equal to approximately 10% in the US.

Pancreatic cancer is becoming common in the US. Including the risk factors, such as family history, diabetes, obesity and tobacco consumption like smoking. This cancer majorly affects people from 60 or above age. 

However, early detection of pancreatic cancer can lower the risk factors. And results in getting successful treatments.

2. Is Pancreatic Cancer Hereditary?

Is pancreatic cancer hereditary
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Well, genetics won’t be the sole cause of pancreatic cancer. However, there is a hereditary risk of pancreatic cancer. Knowing medical family history helps in early cancer detection and can lower the increased risk of familial pancreatic cancer.

So let’s understand hereditary pancreatic cancer. The relationship between genetics and pancreatic cancer.

2.1. Genetics’ Role

Let’s understand the role of genetics in cancer. Hereditary cancer syndrome occurs due to genetic mutations. These genetic mutations can lead to factors like uncontrollable cell growth and the the developtumoursf tumours. This results in an increased risk of developing cancer.

Not keeping a record of medical family history, may increase pancreatic cancer risk estimates.

2.2. Genes Associated With Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Various genetic mutations become the reason for cancer. As for pancreatic cancer, we will discuss about two prominent genes responsible for it.

2.2.1. BRCA1 and BRCA2 Gene Mutations

Familial breast and ovarian cancer syndrome are caused by BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. It can also result in hereditary cancer syndromes. However, this genetic mutation in these genes can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are present in DNA and they work as a defence mechanism towards cancer. But when this genetic mutation is identified, it dissolves the defence mechanism towards cancer. Further resulting in increased risk factors for pancreatic cancer.

BRCA2 gene mutations are responsible for germline mutations that later can transform into familial pancreatic carcinoma.

2.2.2. PALB2 Mutations

PALB2 helps in the repairing of DNA. In PALB2, a specific gene mutation results in the loss of the repairing ability of the gene. This results in an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. This also results in a higher risk of hereditary breast cancer and ovarian cancer syndrome.

2.3. Family History and Pancreatic Cancer Risk Estimates

To avoid the risk of hereditary pancreatic cancer know about your family history beforehand. Doctors might suggest having genetic testing to identify pancreatic cancer. Genetic testing is also required to identify hereditary breast cancer. Hereditary pancreatic cancer doesn’t have to be caused only by family members however it can also be caused by first-degree relatives.

2.3.1. Understanding Family History Of Pancreatic Cancer

Family history plays a crucial role in identifying the root cause of hereditary cancer syndrome. Hereditary pancreatic cancer increases the prospective risk of familial pancreatic cancer kindreds. A family history of pancreatic cancer can be detected by genetic testing. This helps in lowering the high-risk assessment.

2.3.2. Shared Genetics

Well, familial pancreatic cancer can not only inherited from family members. However, the risk of pancreatic cancer also occurs in the shared lifestyle of family members or first-degree relatives. That also depends on various environmental risk factors.

3. The Link Between Heredity and Pancreatic Cancer

The link between heredity and pancreatic cancer
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There is a link between hereditary and pancreatic cancer. Understanding the hereditary risk factors like stimulus factors, genetics and personal history of pancreatic cancer. Now, let’s shed some light on how genetics can influence pancreatic cancer.

3.1. Genetics and Disease Development

Genetic Mutations are like an ignited fire and increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. Such mutations occur due to stimulus changes or genetic mutations. Let’s understand the fundamental mutation process. This might help to identify the cause of this deadly disease earlier than possible.

3.1.1. Genetic Mutations

Hereditary pancreatic cancer can be the result of genetic mutations. These mutations occur randomly due to lifestyle changes or genetic changes.

3.1.2. Prominent Genetic Mutation

There are several kinds of genes in your body. Mutations in some genes cause deadly diseases like pancreatic cancer. Some of those genes are BRCA1, BRCA2 OR PALB2. These are some prominent genes that have genetic mutations and increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. These mutations are also known as germline mutations.

Germline mutations refer to the mutations that are inherited through generations. These mutations affect the eggs in the females and sperm in the males. This results in sporadic pancreatic cancer. Germline mutations can be detected through genetic testing or genetic counselling.

3.1.3. Mutation Consequences

When the genes started to mutate. Mutations in these genes result in lowering the incapability of them to repair the DNA. These mutations increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. However, families with hereditary pancreatic cancer have an increased risk of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma or hereditary pancreatitis.

4. Genetic Testing and Screening

Importance of genetic screening
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Pancreatic cancer screening can help a lot in identifying the high-risk individuals at risk of developing pancreatic cancer. This knowledge will help with early detection, healthcare measures and the risk factors of pancreatic cancer. Let’s understand more about genetic testing and screening for hereditary pancreatic cancer.

4.1. Importance of Genetic Testing

Genetic testing or genetic counselling helps in detecting inherited cancer syndromes. It is a tool that helps in the assessment of the risk of pancreatic cancer.

4.1.1. Early Detection

The early detection of familial pancreatic cancer kindreds can help to identify the risk of pancreatic cancer. It can also help to detect other inherited genetic syndromes. Early detection will also help to prevent a higher risk of hereditary pancreatitis or chronic pancreatitis cancer.

4.1.2. Informed Decision Making

When the knowledge of the mutations and risk factors of developing pancreatic cancer is with the doctors. Then, it can help in cancer prevention to an extent. Results in giving better treatments and planning of better prevention strategies. This gives the knowledge to perform informed decision-making to help with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.

4.1.3. Family Implications

Genetic testing can help to identify the risk of developing pancreatic cancer in the other family members. This will help to provide surveillance over the other family members.

Pancreatic cancer screening can help to detect risk factors. Further, prevents hereditary pancreatitis cancer risk for the entire family.

4.2. Who Should Consider Genetic Testing?

Genetic testing is not necessary for every individual. But it is required for certain individuals and groups. Let’s see who should consider themselves for genetic testing.

4.2.1. Family History

A person who has multiple cancer cases in their family should get genetic testing to identify genetic syndromes.

They should keep a record of a a family history of pancreatic cancer cases or other cancers such as familial melanoma etc. in their family or close relatives.

Then those individuals should seek a doctor for genetic testing. This will help in the early detection of familial pancreatic cancer.

4.2.2. Known Genetic Mutation Identified

The known genetic mutations or germline mutations are identified that cause familial pancreatic cancer incidence. Then, it will help to manage the increased risk factors.

4.2.3. Early Onset Cases

Young pancreatic cancer cases harbour genetic mutation or germline mutations. Genetic testing can help to identify and manage the risk assessments for those patients.

Early onset also includes other cancers. Such as endometrial cancer or autosomal dominantly inherited syndrome, a categorized ovarian or breast cancer.

So in young children or children during adolescence, they might have inherited cancer syndromes, such as chronic pancreatitis, acute pancreatitis, and hereditary pancreatitis. It might also help to identify them as well.

4.3. Available Genetic Screening Options

Genetic screening or pancreatic cancer diagnoses can help pancreatic cancer patients.

Advanced testing provides several options for pancreatic cancer risk.

4.3.1. Targeted Genetic Testing

This genetic testing is used to test mutations in specific genes. Such as BRCA1, BRCA2, PALB and others. Germline mutations of BRCA1 lead to pancreatic adenocarcinoma. There are low survival rates of pancreatic adenocarcinoma.

4.3.2. Multigene Panel Testing

Multi-genetic testing is used to detect a history of pancreatic cancer and other cancers that are influenced by mutations in genes.

4.3.3. CounselCounsellingterpretation

Not only genetic testing is important. Counselling and interpretation of clinical and genetic characteristics are also prominent. This will help in risk factor cancer prevention.

It will also help them to understand their result and make informed decisions prominently.

5. Reducing Hereditary Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Reducing the risk of hereditary pancreatic cancer
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Hereditary Pancreatic cancer can threaten a lifetime risk. There are some proactive steps that anyone can take to reduce the lifetime risk of pancreatic cancer. Let’s discuss them!

5.1. Lifestyle Modifications

Germline mutation or other mutations in genes happen due to lifestyle changes. Here are some steps that can help you to prevent it.

  • Have a healthy diet and make your body strong and healthy.
  • Do prominent physical activity according to your health. As well as it will also help to reduce the risk of obesity, a known risk factor for pancreatic cancer.
  • Quit alcohol and smoking consumption. Alcohol is the main cause of chronic pancreatitis.
  • Maintain a healthy weight because obesity has a higher risk of pancreatic cancer.
  • Maintain your blood sugar levels because it will help to reduce the high risk of pancreatic cancer. As well as high-risk individuals should always maintain their blood sugar levels.

5.2. Preventive Measures for Those With a Family History

Surveillance of family members and first-degree relatives can help in the early detection of pancreatic cancer. Surveillance includes:

  • Endoscopic Ultrasound
  • CT Scans
  • Blood Test

However, always discuss a better surveillance method with your healthcare provider.

6. Conclusion

Pancreatic cancer can be hereditary, so do keep a record of your medical family history. It will help to lower the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

There are several mutations in the genes that can be the reason for this cancer. As well as for other cancers. Pancreatic cancer mostly appears in the 5th or 6th decade of age. Meaning in between 50-60 or above age.

You should always consider keeping health measures to prevent the developing risk. Also never forget to consider advice from your healthcare provider.

Last Updated on December 26, 2023 by