Smoking and pancreatic cancer

A certain buttinski of my acquaintance, who has an opinion on everything, insists that cigarette smoking has to be a contributing factor to pancreatic cancer.

My father died of pancreatic cancer in 1998. He was diagnosed in November of 1996, and died the following March which is typical for the disease. It is usually diagnosed late, and progresses very fast.

My father was 67 when he died. He did smoke once, but he quit in 1964, when the famous Surgeon’s General report on smoking came out. My parents both quit that same day, cold turkey, like a lot of people in the US. So he hadn’t smoked for 33 years, or 1/3 of his life, and he didn’t take it up until college, so he smoked for only about 17 years, and apparently (He started college at 17), he was a casual party-&-weekend type smoker (according to my mother-- he could have been a heavier smoker when he was an undergrad, before my mother met him).

Still this buttinski friend of mine, is so anti-smoking, she makes me look like Nick Naylor, and there really aren’t too many people as anti-smoking as me, but she’s a crusader. She’s like the Fred Phelps of non-smokers. Anyway, she absolutely insists that my father would still be alive if he had never smoked.

Is there any possibility of truth in that? there’s a more than 30 year gap between his quitting, and his diagnosis, and that’s longer than he smoked in the first place. Also, he came from non-smoking parents, and didn’t work among smokers much. There was smoking in the offices at the university where he worked, but there was also ventilation, and he had a private office most of the time, and there was no smoking in the classrooms.

There is a lot of diabetes in his family-- both his parents had middle-age-onset insulin dependent diabetes, and two of his grandparents died of cancer at pretty young ages (it was long enough ago, that I don’t know the details; cancer was just cancer then). Also, his mother had breast cancer, although she survived it. My uncle, my father’s brother, had surgery for a precancerous condition in his colon (no chemo, though) years ago. So it seems like my father had a lot of vulnerabilities to both cancer in general, and also pancreatic problems, and to lay the whole cause at the feet of a thing he did for a while 30 years earlier and stopped seems silly.

But perhaps it still was a contributing factor? Does anyone know?

If it’s actually true, I’ll acknowledge it, but I won’t if it wasn’t, not even to shut up the buttinski.

FWIW, I don’t smoke, and never have, not even once, so I don’t even know why she cares so much, unless she’s just anecdote-gathering.

From the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center at Johns Hopkins

It seems like his smoking shouldn’t be considered causal since he’d quit so long before. I highlighted the Jewish thing because you’re Jewish, as I recall. My sympathies on the death of your father. My father died of lung cancer and he was a non-smoker. My grandmother died of pancreatic cancer.


I doubt he had the BRAC2 gene, because all the cousins and my brother and I got tested for it since we had a grandmother who had had breast cancer (she had it in her 70s, and it was very slow-growing-- it was actually a non-metastatic tumor, although since it was the 1970s, she had a mastectomy, and that’s not the typical progression of BRAC2 cancer), so I doubt my father had that. He more likely had something related to the prevalent diabetes in the family (I have reactive hypoglycemia, and have to test my blood sugar with a glucometer after exercising, and eat on a schedule; I also CANNOT eat refined sugar on an empty stomach, or I get the shakes, and a bad stomachache).

Considering what happened to other people in my father’s family, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if my father had become diabetic had he lived longer. My uncle has so far avoided insulin dependent diabetes, but he jogs every morning, goes for a walk after dinner, and watches his diet like a hawk, because he’s very aware of his family history.

We haven’t been tested for PALB2, though. We probably should. I have big boobs, and mammograms are pretty useless for me. I get an all-clear with the caveat that I’m hard to measure.

I have read that after a few years of non-smoking, the elevated death rate compared to non-smokers pretty much disappears. I would tell this woman that when you want her opinion, you will ask for it. Even if she were right, what is the point in bugging you, who has never smoked, about it?

Just for the record, I gave up smoking 50 years ago.

People who feel compelled to argue that a loved one who’s been dead for 17 years brought it upon himself are dicks.

My wife has sometimes been successful in shutting up dicks who make stupid/offensive statements with the all-purpose line, “And what would you like me to do about it now?”

Unfortunately this is not true in a general sense. You can do plenty of damage to yourself through prolonged smoking which cannot be repaired, whether it’s cardiovascular, lung compromise, elevated cancer risk or other health impairments. This site notes that ten years after quitting, ex-smokers have half the death rate from lung cancer compared to those who are still smoking. But that ex-smoker death rate is still markedly higher than for never-smokers.

The “buttinski” referred to in the OP is an ass.