Diabetes and Cancer: Partners in Crime?
Diabetes and cancer are two serious diseases that are generally considered separate conditions. However, clinical evidence has shown links between the two illnesses, which can have a profound impact on patient outcomes. As a result, it is important to understand the nature of diabetes and its relationship with cancer.
Nature and Prognosis of Diabetes
Diabetes is a disease which impairs the body’s use and control of blood sugar, which is the basic source of energy for all cells within the body. The key hormone utilized by the body to process blood sugar is insulin. Diabetics suffer either from a deficiency in insulin production or from inefficient utilization of insulin in processing blood sugar. The resultant high blood sugar levels can lead to a host of health problems, ranging from heart disease, stroke, poor circulation, kidney, and vision problems.
Links Between Diabetes and Cancer
There have been a number of studies suggesting a link between diabetes and cancer. This may be in part to the decreased immunity levels suffered by diabetics, which can promote the development and progress of some forms of cancer. Moreover, high blood sugar levels in diabetics may provide the fuel for uncontrolled growth of cancer cells.
A study published in 1999 by the National Cancer Institute showed that diabetics suffered from an increased risk of colorectal cancer. This could partially be due to the fact that both diseases have similar risk factors, including obesity, poor diets and lack of exercise. Nevertheless, after correcting for these and other indicators, diabetes itself was found to be a risk factor for colon cancer.
Another study that same year found that men with diabetes likewise showed an increased risk for prostrate cancer. Diabetes has also been associated with pancreatic cancer, which may not be surprising, since it is the pancreas that produces insulin. Multiple studies have shown that diabetes led to an increased risk of this deadly form of cancer.
An intriguing recent finding is that cancer can even be a risk factor for diabetes. The Archives of Internal Medicine published a study in 2009, which reported that survivors of childhood cancer were nearly twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes by adulthood. One theory explaining this link is that the radiation therapy used to treat cancer damaged the pancreas or other organs in some subtle way.
Chemotherapy used in cancer treatment may similarly lead to an increased risk of diabetes. A recent study associated the breast cancer drug tamoxifen with a higher incidence of diabetes, possibly due to its role in inhibiting estrogen, which may play a role in blood sugar regulation.
Mesothelioma patients may also be at increased risk of diabetes due to their treatment. One of the key drugs to increase mesothelioma life expectancy is cisplatin, which has been linked to the onset of diabetes.
Diabetes and cancer patients are strongly advised to watch their diets carefully. They should limit their consumption of sugar and simple carbohydrates and instead consume a diet rich in vegetables and lean proteins to effectively regulate their blood sugar levels. Moreover, since obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are risk factors common to both diabetes and certain cancers, it is also recommended that patients with either disease engage in light to moderate physical activity.
By: Jackie Clark
This information is for general background purposes and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific conditions. Seek prompt medical attention for health care questions you have. Consult your physician before making changes to your medication, diet, fitness program, or blood glucose testing schedules.
This entry was posted on Friday, October 21st, 2011 at 6:32 pm and is filed under Diet and Nutrition, Managing Diabetes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.