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Rising Pancreatic Cancer Rates Impact Women More Than Men

An outline of the human intestines, with the pancreas shown in blue.
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A recent study from Cedars-Sinai has highlighted that pancreatic cancer rates are rising faster in women than in men of the same age. The work is published in Gastroenterology.

Pancreatic cancer rates are on the rise

Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of the major cancer types, accounting for 3% of all cancer deaths in the US. Although several different types of pancreatic cancer exist, the majority of cases are ductal adenocarcinomas, which originate in the cells that form the lining of the pancreatic ducts.

The new study analyzed data from patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer between 2001 and 2018, which was collected from the National Program of Cancer Registries database. The researchers found that, overall, pancreatic cancer diagnosis rates are on the rise in both women and men, but in younger women, the rates are 2.4% higher than in men of the same age.

This was unexpected, as generally, pancreatic cancer is more common among men than women.

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Associate Director of pancreatic biliary research and senior author of the study, Dr. Srinivas Gaddam, said, “We can tell that the rate of pancreatic cancer among women is rising rapidly, which calls attention to the need for further research in this area.”

“There’s a need to understand these trends, and to make changes today so this doesn’t affect women disproportionately in the future,” he emphasized.

Black women are particularly affected

Pancreatic cancer cases in young Black women were 2.23% higher than in young Black men, the researchers noted.

The investigators propose that the type and location of tumors may be changing over time, with rates of a particularly aggressive form of cancer – pancreatic head adenocarcinoma – appearing to increase over the time period studied.

“And while we’re reporting improving survival in pancreatic cancer each year, that improvement is largely among men,” Gaddam said. “The mortality rate among women is not improving.”

Gaddam stressed that his next steps are to carry out further studies to investigate the cause of this increase, by examining any differences in pancreatic tumors between women and men.

“The data shows us a small increase in risk of pancreatic cancer,” he said. “And that awareness might refocus people on the need to stop smoking, reduce alcohol use, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and manage their weight. These lifestyle changes all help decrease the risk of pancreatic cancer.”


Reference: Abboud Y, Samaan JS, Oh J, et al. Increasing pancreatic cancer incidence in young women in the US: A population-based time-trend analysis, 2001-2018. Gastroenterology. 2023. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2023.01.022


This article is a rework of a press release from Cedars-Sinai. Material has been edited for length and content.