5 Ways to Support the Health of Your Pancreas

The steps you can take to reduce your risk of disease will boost your overall wellness, too.

fit-looking man tastes a healthy soup he's cooking in his kitchen

Updated on January 20, 2023.

Pancreatic cancer is relatively uncommon but often fatal. Many things may influence your chances of developing a disease. Some things you can’t control, such as your age, your genes, and certain things you’re exposed to in your environment. Other things, including certain habits or your lifestyle, are things you can modify.

Research suggests there are several lifestyle tweaks that support well-being in general:

Exercise. That means getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. Smart (and fun) options include walking or jogging with friends, bicycling, hiking, or dancing.

Go easy on alcohol. If you don’t already drink, don’t start. If you do imbibe, stick to a moderate amount. That means no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two a day for men.

Maintain a healthy weight. If you are considered overweight or obese, consult with your healthcare provider (HCP) on healthy ways to lose extra pounds. That may involve a combination of exercise and reducing your daily intake of calories. In many cases, you can do so without feeling deprived or hungry.

Quit smoking. This one is a no-brainer. Kicking tobacco is quite possibly the most important thing you can do to improve your pancreatic and overall health today. It’s not easy to quit cold turkey, so seek support from your HCP, friends, and family, or follow a quit program.

Eat wisely. Though no single diet is proven to reduce your chances of pancreatic cancer, experts generally agree that a nutritious, well-balanced eating plan can help you manage your weight, lower your risk of chronic disease, and promote good health. So:

  • Focus on nutritious, fiber-filled foods like fruit, vegetables, beans, and whole grains such as brown rice and oatmeal, as well as lean sources of protein like chicken, fish, and tofu. Include foods with healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and avocado, too.
  • Limit your intake of processed meat, red meat, and sugar-sweetened beverages, which may raise your odds of developing pancreatic cancer.

5-star pancreas protection

Adopting even just a few of these five habits can help diminish your risk of pancreatic cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends all five, plus the additional step of limiting your exposure to certain chemicals at your workplace. 

Quitting smoking and reducing belly fat may be particularly helpful. But the benefit of a holistic approach showed striking reductions in pancreatic risk in a large study published in 2020 in the European Journal of Epidemiology.

If you can't adopt all five health habits at once, pick a couple to adopt for starters, and stick with them. Not only will you be reducing your cancer risk, but you’ll build the foundation for a happier, healthier you.

Article sources open article sources

National Cancer Institute: Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program. Cancer Stat Facts: Pancreatic Cancer. Accessed January 20, 2023.
American Cancer Society. Can Pancreatic Cancer Be Prevented? Last Revised: June 9, 2020.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: 2nd Edition. 2018.
Zheng J, Guinter MA, Merchant AT, et al. Dietary patterns and risk of pancreatic cancer: a systematic review. Nutr Rev. 2017;75(11):883-908.
Casari I, Falasca M. Diet and Pancreatic Cancer Prevention. Cancers (Basel). 2015 Nov 23;7(4):2309-17.
Chen CH, Tsai MK, Lee JH, et al, Wen CP. "Sugar-Sweetened Beverages" Is an Independent Risk From Pancreatic Cancer: Based on Half a Million Asian Cohort Followed for 25 Years. Front Oncol. 2022 Apr 7;12:835901.
Lu P-Y, Shu L, Shen S-S, et al. Dietary Patterns and Pancreatic Cancer Risk: A Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2017;9(1).
Naudin S, Viallon V, Hashim D, et al. Healthy lifestyle and the risk of pancreatic cancer in the EPIC study. Eur J Epidemiol. 2020;35(10):975-986.
Jiao L, Mitrou PN, Reedy J, et al. A combined healthy lifestyle score and risk of pancreatic cancer in a large cohort study. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(8):764-770.

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