A number of risk factors exist for pancreatic cancer. Some risk factors, such as family history and genetics, can’t be changed. However, you do have control over other factors, such as drinking alcohol.

According to the American Cancer Society, there may be a link between pancreatic cancer and heavy alcohol use. That link, however, has not been fully proven.

A 2018 study indicated an association between a diagnosis of acute pancreatitis and long-term risk of pancreatic cancer.

A 2014 study appearing in American Family Physician journal demonstrated that chronic alcohol use was one of the most common causes of acute pancreatitis.

In summary, drinking alcohol can cause pancreatitis which is a risk factor for pancreatic cancer. According to the Mayo Clinic, stopping your consumption of alcohol can reduce the risk.

Pancreatic cysts are pockets of fluid in or on your pancreas. Pancreatitis is a risk factor for pancreatic cysts. Alcohol use is a risk factor for pancreatitis.

Although not everybody who gets pancreatitis will get pancreatic cancer, pancreatitis is a recognized risk factor for it.

According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, most pancreatic cysts are noncancerous (benign). However, some are precancerous with the potential to develop into pancreatic cancer.

Your pancreas is a large gland that produces enzymes and hormones that assist in the digestion of food. It’s located deep in your abdomen.

Part of your pancreas sits between your stomach and your spine, and the other part rests against the curve of the first part of your small intestine (duodenum).

The position of the pancreas makes it extremely difficult to be felt by pressing on the abdomen (palpating).

This is a primary reason why a tumor can often grow undetected until the symptoms of pancreatic cancer appear. Pancreatic cancer can interfere with the function of the pancreas or other nearby organs, such as the gallbladder, stomach or liver.

Commonly, symptoms of pancreatic cancer are recognized once the disease is advanced. They may include:

  • blood clots
  • depression
  • fatigue
  • liver or gallbladder enlargement
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • pain in your upper abdomen or back
  • unintended weight loss
  • yellowing of eyes and skin (jaundice)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program lists alcoholic beverages as a known human carcinogen.

According to the American Cancer Society, the consumption of alcoholic beverages have been linked to cancers of the:

Yours body breaks down the alcohol you have consumed into acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is a chemical that damages your DNA. It also prevents your body from repairing the damage.

Wine, beer and distilled spirits (liquor) all contain ethanol. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the type of alcoholic beverage doesn’t decrease or increase the risk of cancer. The volume of alcoholic beverages does.

Basically, the more you drink, the higher your risk of cancer.

Comparison of drinks

A similar amount of ethanol (close to half an ounce) is contained in:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 8 to 9 ounces of malt liquor
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor

Alcoholic beverages are a known carcinogen. Drinking alcohol has been identified as a cause of pancreatitis which is a risk factor for pancreatic cancer. Therefore, stopping consumption of alcohol can reduce your risk for pancreatitis, and your risk for pancreatic cancer.

Future research will refine the impact of consuming alcohol as a risk factor for pancreatic cancer. Currently, in its guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention, the American Cancer Society recommends:

  • no more than two alcoholic beverages a day for men
  • no more than one alcoholic beverage a day for women