SIMPLE lifestyle changes could prevent almost two fifths of cases one of the deadliest forms of cancer, a leading charity claims.

Each year 8800 people in the UK are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Fewer than 4% are likely to live five years, but 37% could have avoided the disease by maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking, according to Cancer Research UK.

Launching a major push to combat pancreatic cancer, Sara Hiom from the charity said: "Pancreatic cancer is a disease with poor outcomes and is less well understood, so it's important that we talk about the things people can do to stack the odds in their favour and reduce their risk."

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The contribution of poor lifestyle to pancreatic cancer is outlined in research published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Professor Jeff Evans from Cancer Research UK's Beatson Institute in Glasgow, said he found it devastating to break the bad news to a patient with advanced pancreatic cancer.

He added: "Survival for this disease remains shockingly low and this has to change. There's an urgent need to tackle pancreatic cancer head on by building up an armoury of effective new treatments and developing ways to diagnose this disease sooner, when surgery is more effective.

"At the same time it's important to remember that people can take steps to reduce their risk of developing pancreatic and other cancers by not smoking and by keeping a healthy weight, especially if you are prone to carrying too much around your middle."

Cancer Research UK chief executive Dr Harpal Kumar said: "Unlike most other cancers where we've seen survival rates climb, outcomes for pancreatic cancer remain desperately poor. This is why Cancer Research UK has made this … disease a research priority in our recent strategy."