Pancreatic Cancer Facts and Statistics: What You Need to Know

Pancreatic cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the pancreas (an organ in the abdomen that makes digestive juices and hormones). These cells form tumors that can spread to other tissues in the pancreas, to the lymph nodes, and to other organs.

In the United States, it was estimated that around 62,210 people would be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2022, and approximately 49,830 people would die from pancreatic cancer. Both the rate of new cases and deaths rose between 2010 and 2019. New cases are increasing about 0.5% annually, while the death rate is going up about 0.2% annually.

This article will highlight important facts about pancreatic cancer and statistics you should know.

Person in pain from pancreatic cancer

fizkes / Getty Images

Pancreatic Cancer Overview

Pancreatic cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells from the pancreas grow out of control and spread to other tissues and organs. These cells can disrupt the functioning of the pancreas and other organs and be deadly.

How Common Is Pancreatic Cancer? 

Pancreatic cancer is the 10th most common cancer in the United States but the third most deadly. It was estimated that approximately 62,210 people would be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2022, and about 49,830 people would die from it. About 89,248 people were living with pancreatic cancer in the United States in 2019.

Based on data collected between 2015 and 2019, for every 100,000 people in the U.S., there will be 13.3 cases of pancreatic cancer each year and 11.1 deaths from it. Over an entire lifetime, there is a 1.7% chance that a person will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic Cancer by Gender and Ethnicity

Males and Black Americans are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than their same-age counterparts. This increased prevalence is possibly due to higher tobacco use in these populations. Data for the tables are from the National Cancer Institute.

Pancreatic Cancer in Men by Ethnicity
Ethnicity New Cases   Deaths
All Races 15.1 12.7
Non-Hispanic White 15.7 13.0
Non-Hispanic Black 17.7 15.4
Non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander 11.0 8.3
Non-Hispanic American/Indian Alaska Native 16.5 11.6
Hispanic 12.8 9.6
The table shows new cases of and deaths from pancreatic cancer per 100,000 men, broken down by ethnicity. Data is from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER) database averaged for 2015–2019.
Pancreatic Cancer in Women by Ethnicity
Ethnicity New Cases   Deaths
All Races 11.8 9.6
Non-Hispanic White 11.7 9.6
Non-Hispanic Black 14.9 12.4
Non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander 9.2 7.0
Non-Hispanic American/Indian Alaska Native 10.0 8.7
Hispanic 11.2 7.9
The table shows new cases of and deaths from pancreatic cancer per 100,000 women, broken down by ethnicity. Data is from the National Cancer Institute's SEER database averaged for 2015–2019.

Pancreatic Cancer by Age

Pancreatic cancer, like most cancers, is more common in older age groups. As people age, their bodies’ defense systems against cancer break down. They also have decades of wear and tear on their genetic material in each cell, leading to a greater chance of developing the mutations that lead to cancer. 

Almost all people with pancreatic cancer are over 45, and two-thirds are over 65.

Percent of Pancreatic Cancer New Cases and Deaths by Age
Age New cases Deaths
Under 20 0.1% 0%
2034 0.7% 0.1%
3544 1.9% 1.0%
4554 7.7% 5.9%
5564 21.7% 19.8%
6574 31.0% 30.7%
7584 24.5% 27.1%
Over 84 12.4% 15.4%
The table shows new cases of and deaths from pancreatic cancer per 100,000 women, broken down by ethnicity. Data is from the National Cancer Institute's SEER database averaged for 2015–2019.

Causes of Pancreatic Cancer and Risk Factors 

About 25% of pancreatic cancer cases are thought to be due to tobacco use. These cases could be avoided if people stopped using cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco.

Some factors for pancreatic cancer risk you may be able to control are: 

  • Excess weight
  • Type 2 diabetes (a chronic disease affecting the ability to process blood sugar)
  • Chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas, typically from heavy alcohol use and smoking)
  • Exposure to dry cleaning and metal working chemicals

Other factors that increase your chances of developing pancreatic cancer include:  

  • Older age
  • Male sex
  • Your family history
  • Genetic syndromes

What Are the Mortality Rates for Pancreatic Cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly cancers. Only 11.5% of people with pancreatic cancer are expected to be alive five years after first being diagnosed.

These numbers have improved since the 1990s, when there was a 3%–5% survival at five years. But the number of people with pancreatic cancer who die hasn’t changed much. This increasing five-year survival rate means that people with pancreatic cancer live longer but eventually succumb to their disease.

The five-year relative survival rate is better for cancers caught early, but more than half of pancreatic cancers are discovered when they’ve already spread to other organs (the distant stage).

At the distant stage, the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is 3.1%. Cancer that has already spread regionally—to nearby lymph nodes or close organs—has a five-year relative survival rate of 14.7%.

Pancreatic cancer discovered while it is still located only in the pancreas (local stage) has a five-year relative survival rate of 43.9%—but only 12% of pancreatic cancers are discovered this early.

Survival Rate

Survival rates can be complex. The survival rate is the percentage of people who survive a disease such as cancer for a certain amount of time, but that figure may be presented in several different ways. 

In addition to being one of the deadliest cancers, pancreatic cancer is one of the few cancers that has been rising in cases and deaths. Pancreatic cancer diagnoses have been rising on average by half a percent per year between 2010 and 2019. The death rates are also rising. They went up about 0.2% each year between 2010 and 2019.

Screening and Early Detection of Pancreatic Cancer

There is no screening for pancreatic cancer for a person with average risk. The healthcare provider performing your annual appointment can’t feel or see a tumor in the pancreas. Symptoms typically don't show up until cancer has spread from the pancreas.  

If you have a family history of pancreatic cancer, you may wish to get your genome (complete set of genes) screened for syndromes that may put you at a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer. If you have a genetic syndrome or strong family history that puts you at high risk, your healthcare provider may suggest screening for pancreatic cancer.

These screenings involve regularly undergoing an endoscopic ultrasound (an instrument is passed through your mouth into your digestive tract and uses sound waves to produce images) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which uses a strong magnetic field to produce images. These two options can check your pancreas for tumors.

Researchers are still studying screening tests for pancreatic cancer, so there’s no firm data on how well they work in saving lives in people at high risk for pancreatic cancer.

Summary

Pancreatic cancer is the 10th most common cancer but the third most deadly. In the United States, more than 60,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year, killing almost 50,000. Only 11.5% of people with pancreatic cancer are alive five years after diagnosis. The number of new cases and deaths is increasing.

Frequently Asked Questions

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Cancer Society. What is pancreatic cancer?

  2. National Cancer Institute. Cancer stat facts: pancreatic cancer.

  3. American Cancer Society. Pancreatic cancer risk factors.

  4. National Cancer Institute. Pancreas SEER 5-Year Relative Survival Rates, 2012-2018.

  5. American Cancer Society. Can pancreatic cancer be found early?