Pancreatic cancer is a genetic disease. Pancreatic cancers develop from one of three precursor lesions, pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN), intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (IPMNs), and mucinous cystic neoplasms (MCNs), and each arises in association with distinct genetic alterations. These alterations not only provide insight into the fundamental origins of pancreatic cancer but provide ample opportunity for improving early diagnosis and management of cystic precursors. J. Surg. Oncol. 2013;107:8–14. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.