Is diabetes a risk factor for pancreatic cancer?
African Americans are slightly more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than whites. The reasons for this aren't clear, but it may be due in part to having higher rates of some other risk factors for pancreatic cancer, such as diabetes, smoking in men, and being overweight in women.
Diabetes. Rarely, pancreatic cancers cause diabetes (high blood sugar) because they destroy the insulin-making cells. Symptoms can include feeling thirsty and hungry, and having to urinate often.
- Scientists don't know exactly what causes most pancreatic cancers, but they have found several risk factors that can make a person more likely to get this disease. Some of these risk factors affect the DNA of cells in the pancreas, which can result in abnormal cell growth and may cause tumors to form.
- Based on a person's exam, lab tests, and description of symptoms, a doctor often orders an imaging test: Computed tomography (CT scan): A scanner takes multiple X-ray pictures, and a computer reconstructs them into detailed images of the inside of the abdomen. A CT scan helps doctors make a pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
- Symptoms of acute pancreatitis:
- Upper abdominal pain that radiates into the back; it may be aggravated by eating, especially foods high in fat.
- Swollen and tender abdomen.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Increased heart rate.
The pancreas and type 2 diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, the body builds up resistance to insulin and more insulin is needed to bring down blood glucose levels. If the pancreas can no longer produce enough insulin to bring down sugar levels, the symptoms of diabetes will begin to appear.
- Diabetes mellitus caused by pancreatic exocrine disease is a unique clinical and metabolic form of diabetes. The diagnosis of pancreatic diabetes caused by chronic pancreatitis may be elusive because it is occasionally painless and often not accompanied by clinical malabsorption until after hyperglycemia occurs.
- Common warnings signs of diabetes include:
- Increased thirst.
- Increased hunger (especially after eating)
- Dry mouth.
- Frequent urination or urine infections.
- Unexplained weight loss (even though you are eating and feel hungry)
- Fatigue (weak, tired feeling)
- Blurred vision.
- If it's 126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L) or higher on two separate tests, you have diabetes. Oral glucose tolerance test. For this test, you fast overnight, and the fasting blood sugar level is measured. Then you drink a sugary liquid, and blood sugar levels are tested periodically for the next two hours.
Type 2 diabetes and cancer share many risk factors, but potential biologic links between the two diseases are incompletely understood. Moreover, evidence from observational studies suggests that some medications used to treat hyperglycemia are associated with either increased or reduced risk of cancer.
- Type I diabetes tends to occur with cervical and stomach cancers. Also, high blood sugar levels brought on by diabetes can weaken the immune system, which needs to be strong to fight cancer. Likewise, diabetes could potentially delay cancer treatment or increase the risk of infection during treatment.
- The researchers concluded that: "Patients with lung cancer with diabetes mellitus have an increased survival compared with those without diabetes mellitus." They also found that patients with diabetes had a lower rate of metastatic cancer, that is they were less likely to have tumors that had spread.
- They may need to take oral medication or insulin if blood sugar levels are high. Generally, blood sugar levels should return to their previous levels 1-2 days after stopping the steroids.
Updated: 2nd October 2019