Smoking big cause of pancreatic cancer - study

The sooner you quit, the better. Photo credit: File

Quitting smoking could reduce your chance of developing pancreatic cancer as well as lung cancer - especially if you're a man.

New research in Australia has found just over one-in-five cases of pancreatic cancer can be traced back to smoking - around 24 percent of those in men and 7.2 percent in women.

Because the disease presents rather late in life and has a five-year survival rate of under 10 percent, prevention is the "best control strategy", the study's authors say.

"We estimate that 21.7 percent of future pancreatic cancers in Australia are attributable to current and recent smoking," Dr Maarit Laaksonen and colleagues wrote.

"The corresponding figures for lung cancers are 53.7 percent and for colorectal cancers 3.9 percent."

And the sooner you quit, the better.

"Pancreatic cancer risk remains elevated for 15 years after stopping smoking."

No similar links between pancreatic cancer and alcohol or body mass index were found.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth-biggest cancer killer of Kiwi and Aussie men, and the fifth-leading cause in women.

Symptoms include diabetes, jaundice, blood clots, fatigue and pain in the upper abdomen.

The link between lung cancer and smoking is well-known - the link between smoking and pancreatic much less so.

The study was published in the Medical Journal of Australia.