Diabetes: A Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factor

Diabetes is A Major Risk Factor of Cancer of the Pancreas

In 2014 about 25 million people had diabetes in the US. About another estimated 60 million are borderline diabetic when blood glucose levels are not quite high enough for an actual diagnosis of diabetes. Most medical research conclude that diabetes is a definite pancreatic cancer risk factor although studies differ on the degree of risk. Some studies show that almost 30% of pancreatic cancer cases are caused by diabetes.

Types and Causes of Diabetes

One of the roles of the pancreas is producing insulin which balances levels of blood sugars. Diabetes is a disease in which the pancreas fails to either produce sufficient levels of insulin, or the body does not efficiently use the insulin to maintain normal blood glucose levels. Insulin permits glucose to enter cells as a required source of energy.

With diabetes, glucose will remain in the blood instead of entering cells. This results in high blood glucose levels which can lead to cell damage creating major health problems including a higher risk of developing cancer of the pancreas. Diabetes can either be a risk or a symptom of pancreatic cancer.

Some studies show that 1% of patients diagnosed with diabetes after the age of 50 will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer within 3 years of their diagnosis of diabetes. Therefore, new onset of diabetes after the age of 50 may be an early warning sign of pancreatic cancer. Sudden changes in blood sugar levels in patients who previously had well-controlled diabetes could also be a sign of pancreas cancer. Those symptoms must be discussed with a physician.

Type 1 Diabetes (Insulin-Dependent). Also known as “juvenile diabetes” because it primarily is diagnosed at childhood although it can occur in adults. It results when the pancreas either does not produce insulin or not enough insulin production needed to permit sugar (glucose) to enter body cells for energy. Various studies show that 5% to 10% of diagnosed cases of pancreatic cancer may be caused by Type 1 Diabetes. Some studies show that early onset diabetes can double the risk of contracting pancreatic cancer.

Type 2 Diabetes (Non-Insulin Dependent). Also known as “adult onset” diabetes. Although it is more common in adults it is increasingly affecting children primarily due to obesity. Type 2 diabetes is far more common than Type 1 and results when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or your body cannot use insulin to process blood sugar out of the blood resulting in high blood sugar levels.

While not everyone with insulin resistance develops diabetes, people with insulin resistance are at increased risk of type 2 diabetes. There are number of causes of type 2 diabetes, the most common causes are being overweight, particularly at an obese level, and poor physical activity.

Take Steps To Minimize The Risk

There are certain diabetic risk factors that cannot be controlled including family history of diabetes, advancing age and ethnicity. However, type diabetes can be somewhat controlled and the Type 2 Diabetes can be prevented or delayed by implementing a healthier diet and lifestyle.

Consult your physician to discuss ways to reduce the risk. If you have symptoms of diabetes, or over the age of 30, ask your physician to perform or order tests to determine if you may have a diabetes or a pre-diabetic condition.

Other Related Information

Mayo Clinic: Type 1 Diabetes
Mayo Clinic: Type 2 Diabetes
WebMD: Type 1 Diabetes
WebMD: Type 2 Diabetes
Symptoms of Diabetes
Preventing Type 2 Diabetes
Metformin Reduces Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

 

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