According to the American Diabetes Association, there is a link between diabetes type 2 and certain types of cancer, particularly liver, pancreas, colon, bladder, breast, uterus, stomach, and kidney cancers. Why is diabetes associated with cancer and how can someone with diabetes prevent the development of cancer? Although this connection is not fully understood, there are some ways to explain how these two conditions are linked.
Some reasons why diabetes is linked with cancer
Diabetes and cancer share certain risk factors, increasing the odds to see both conditions in certain individuals. For example, the age factor- both diabetes type 2 and cancer are more prevalent in older adults. The male gender could be another factor, as men have slightly more chances to get diabetes and colon, liver, and pancreatic cancer.
Some ethnic groups, including African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, and Pacific Islanders have an increased risk of diabetes and some cancers.
For example, about 80% of the cases of pancreatic cancer are linked with diabetes and impairments in glucose tolerance. Furthermore, there is a 94% risk of pancreatic cancer in those with diabetes compared to individuals who do not have diabetes. Some health experts suggest that diabetes may be a consequence of undiagnosed pancreatic cancer, while others believe diabetes is a cause, not a consequence of pancreatic cancer.
When it comes to liver cancer, people with diabetes are almost two times more likely to be diagnosed with this form of cancer compared with those without diabetes. Other liver diseases like hepatitis due to hepatitis B virus, excess alcohol, and fatty liver may play a role as well.
Diabetes seems to affect the prognosis of colon cancer. According to one study related to colorectal cancer, people with colorectal cancer and diabetes have a 5 year shorter survival compared to individuals without diabetes. Having diabetes does not seem to have a negative impact on lung cancer survival.
Based on research studies, there are certain factors that may be responsible for the relationship between diabetes and cancer. High blood sugar levels and inflammation are key factors in the progression of diabetes to cancer. Abnormal glucose metabolism directly promotes the formation of cancer cells and also indirectly through a hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1 or IGF-1. In addition, diabetes is associated with increased free radicals and oxidative stress, which promote DNA damage and subsequent cancer.