Does pancreatic cancer run in families?

Ajay K. Sahajpal, MD
Transplant Surgery

Pancreatic cancer certainly runs in families and there are specific syndromes such as: hereditary pancreatitis, BRCA2 gene mutations, hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer syndrome (HNPCC), and others. If you have greater than two first degree relatives with the diagnosis, that also lends suspicion and consideration to early screening.

Johns Hopkins Medicine
Knowing your family history of disease is important.  Up to 10% of pancreatic cancers are inherited from parent to child.  We are learning about specific instructions in DNA, called genes, that are associated with inherited cancers. Individuals with 2 or more first degree relatives (parent, sibling, or child) who have had pancreatic cancer have an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. 
Individuals with 3 or more close relatives (aunts, uncles, grandparents) are also at risk.
In addition, there are some inherited genes that are associated with an increased risk of multiple cancers.  Individuals who have a young family member under the age of 50 with any of the following cancers: breast, pancreatic, colon cancer, or melanoma, should have a discussion with their physician to determine if they are at increased risk for an inherited cancer. 
Johns Hopkins experts are studying family risk and causes for pancreatic cancer. The National Familial Pancreas Tumor Registry at Johns Hopkins began in 1994 when the importance of familial clustering and pancreatic cancer was recognized.  We believe that there is likely to be a genetic cause behind this clustering.  With our research in hand, we are working on ways to improve our methods of genetic counseling and screening methods for pancreatic cancer. 
We are also on the hunt for additional pancreatic cancer genes through genotyping technology and gene sequencing.

Some conditions that cause an increased risk of pancreatic cancer do run in families. These include hereditary conditions that affect the pancreas, such as hereditary pancreatitis; conditions that affect the endocrine system, such as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 syndrome; and hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer, also known as Lynch syndrome. In addition, hereditary conditions, such as von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, ataxia-telangiectasia, and atypical multiple mole melanoma syndrome, may make some people more likely to get pancreatic cancer.

Continue Learning about Pancreatic Cancer Causes & Risk Factors

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.