The proportions of pancreatic cancer cases attributable (or attributable risks) to tobacco smoking, high consumption of meat, low consumption of fruit, family history of pancreatic cancer, and previous history of pancreatitis were computed by using data from a case-control study conducted in Northern Italy. Between 1983 and 1992 a total of 362 incident, histologically confirmed exocrine pancreatic cancer cases and 1408 controls admitted to the same network of hospitals for acute, non-neoplastic, nondigestive, nonhormone-related disorders, were interviewed. The ARs were 14% for tobacco smoking, 14% for high consumption of meat, and 12% for low consumption of fruit. Overall, these factors explained 23% of pancreatic cancer in the population. The proportion of cases attributable to tobacco smoking was greater among males (20%) as compared with females (5%), as well as were the attributable risks for a diet with a high consumption of meat and a low consumption of fruit (25% in males versus 18% in females). In conclusion, almost one-fourth of pancreatic cancer cases in this population were explainable in terms of a few identified simple risk factors. Smoking cessation and a healthier eating pattern would prevent approximately 1500 pancreatic cancer deaths in Italy every year. In the absence of effective early detection and therapeutic tools for the disease, the intervention on these factors would, thus, have a relevant impact in reducing pancreatic cancer mortality.