Increase in women being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer

pancreatic cancer women
Cases of pancreatic cancer increase in womenKinga Krzeminska - Getty Images

New statistics reveal an increase in cases of pancreatic cancer being diagnosed in women.

The figures, released by Cancer Research UK (CRUK), came from comparing incidences of pancreatic cancer in the UK per every 100,000 people over two three-year periods, 1993-95 and 2016-18. It found that rates of the disease in women aged 25 to 49 increased by 34 per cent.

CRUK says that pancreatic cancer, which has a five year survival rate of just 5 per cent, is the ninth most common cancer in the UK. Their data revealed around 5,100 new cases (in both men and women) diagnosed every year between 2016-8, an overall increase of 17 per cent on 1993-1995. This means that about 17 people out of every 100,000 will get the disease in one calendar year.

The data also noted a surprising (albeit tiny) increase in women under 25 and children finding out that they have the disease.

Soaring obesity rates are suspected to be behind the trend.

Professor Karol Sikora, a world-renowned oncologist with over 40 years' experience, told MailOnline: 'It is probably something to do with dietary changes over the last 20 years,' but researchers have "no idea" of the cause behind this spike. Fortunately pancreatic cancer is rare in the young but it is a bit worrying.'

pancreatic cancer women
Cases of pancreatic cancer have soared in women since the 1990s. Marina Demeshko - Getty Images

Often referred to as a 'silent killer' because of its less obvious symptoms, pancreatic cancer is often only spotted in its final stages, meaning it kills about 10,000 people in the UK every year, which equates to one death every hour.

Figures from CRUK showed that only five per cent survived pancreatic cancer for 10 years or more from 2013-17. Incidence rates are projected to rise by five per cent in the UK between 2023-25 and 2038-40.

In England, pancreatic cancer incidence rates are lower in people from Asian, mixed or multiple ethnicity backgrounds, but higher in the Black ethnic group, when compared with the White ethnic group (2013-2017).

Known risk factors for the disease include smoking and obesity.

Nicola Smith, senior health information manager at Cancer Research UK, also told

MailOnline that more information was needed to understand the increase: 'Pancreatic cancer cases in the UK are on the rise, and we have seen a small increase in the number of young women being diagnosed.'

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer

According to CRUK, pancreatic cancer doesn't cause symptoms usually in the early stages. As it grows, it can start to cause:

  • abdominal or back pain

  • yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes (jaundice)

  • unexplained weight loss

  • changes to your stool (poo)

Your pancreas plays a big role in digestion and is located inside your abdomen, just behind your stomach. It produces enzymes that break down sugars, fats and starches.

Incidence rates are highest in people aged 85-89, say Cancer Research UK (2016 - 2018). However, younger groups are still at risk. If you are suffering any potential symptoms, contact your GP.

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