Diabetes After Age of 50 May Indicate Early Signs of Pancreatic Cancer

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This suggests that the development of diabetes, especially later in life, could be an early sign of pancreatic cancer for some people, said Dr. Zev Wainberg, associate professor in hematology/oncology and gastrointestinal oncology at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, who was not involved in the new study.

Pancreatic cancer has a five-year survival rate of less than 10%. Importantly, the researchers demonstrated that the association of recent-onset diabetes with pancreatic cancer incidence was evident in African- Americans and Latinos. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin or tissues become resistant to insulin, resulting in increased blood sugar.

With no reliable screening tests for pancreatic cancer, identifying high-risk individuals could increase survival rates for a very deadly cancer.

It's interesting to note that compared to long-standing diabetes, recent-onset diabetes was linked to a 2.3-fold higher increase in pancreatic cancer risks. The study spanned two decades and assessed almost 50,000 Hispanic and African American men and women with ages above 50.

Among those with recent-onset diabetes, the percentage of pancreatic cancer cases, at 16.4 percent, was higher than the 6.7 percent with colorectal cancer, 5.3 percent with breast cancer and 5.5 percent with prostate cancer.

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Although the exact link between both diseases is still unclear, the new study shows which two populations are most at risk and continues to move medical research forward to help find cures and save lives. Pancreatic cancer developed in 128 patients with diabetes and 280 patients without diabetes.

When pancreatic cancer patients undergo surgery to remove tumors, more than half of the patients with recent-onset diabetes have no diabetes postoperatively. However, because researchers found these genetic mutations in patients with no family history of pancreatic cancer, they are recommending genetic testing for all pancreatic cancer patients as the new standard of care. "Many people don't know that if you go without diabetes untreated that you could actually get amputations, that you could suffer a heart attack, that you could go blind, and so folks don't take it seriously because they have relatives that have and say 'so and so has diabetes, and they're fine, ' and we don't always know the downstream effects, ". Approximately one in three US adults is at risk for Type 2 diabetes.

"Patients develop Type 2 diabetes at a later age". There are some dietary changes you can make, in order to regulate blood sugar levels and reduce risk of diabetes.

"By the time pancreatic cancer is found, it's nearly always spread or it's to the point where it can't be removed successfully", Wainberg said.

In pancreatic cancer with diabetes, 52.3 per cent of cases developed diabetes in the 36 months preceding the pancreatic cancer diagnosis. When stratifying by disease duration, people with recent-onset diabetes had the highest risk of developing pancreatic cancer. "The prevalence of diabetes is high in these groups so confirming the association of diabetes and pancreatic cancer in these groups would be important".

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