Diabetes and pancreatic cancer connected for African-Americans, Latinos

Henrietta Strickland
June 20, 2018

Study funding comes from the National Institutes of Health grants R01CA192393 and R01CA97075; Mayo Clinic Specialized Program of Research Excellence in Pancreatic Cancer; Mayo Clinic Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology Research Funds; Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine; the Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation; the Stand Up To Cancer-Lustgarten Foundation; and the Vernon F. and Mae E. Thompson Charitable Fund.

In their study on African-American and Latino adults, researchers found the number of cases of the cancer among diabetics diagnosed in middle age is more than double the number of those diagnosed in earlier life.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancers, with a five-year survival rate of only 8 percent. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin or tissues become resistant to insulin, resulting in increased blood sugar.

Researchers from the University of Southern California have revealed that diabetes is associated with a significantly higher risk - more than twice as high - of pancreatic cancer in Hispanic people and African Americans. No participant had pancreatic cancer or diabetes when the study was initiated.

"We need to have a better way to identify patients with early pancreatic cancer", Setiawan said. This year, 55,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and 44,000 American will die of the disease this year, according to American Cancer Society estimates.

Setiawan further explains that looking at how patients with pancreatic cancer develop Type 2 diabetes reveals that the diabetes diagnosis is very close to the time of the cancer diagnosis. Among pancreatic cancer patients undergoing pancreaticoduodenectomies (the surgical operation often used to try to remove pancreatic tumors), over half of patients with recent-onset diabetes have no diabetes postoperatively. The researchers recognized about 16,000 of the almost 50,000 participants who developed diabetes while about 400 developed pancreatic cancer during the 20-year period.

Nevertheless, the chances of pancreatic cancer are still low even for those with a diabetes onset after 50.

Among those with diabetes, 52.3 percent developed the disease 36 months before the pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

Around 3.6 million people in the United Kingdom have diabetes, and 90 per cent of cases are type 2, which is often linked to being overweight or inactive. "There is no indication for general screening for pancreatic cancer in patients with diabetes", Rushakoff wrote in an email.

Researchers suggest in some cases diabetes may be caused by the cancer, and could act as an early warning sign for the killer disease.

"This striking relationship between recent-onset diabetes is unique to pancreatic cancer, and is not seen in breast, prostate and colorectal cancer in the cohort", said one of the paper's authors, Wendy Setiawan. "These findings don't do anything to change how diabetes patients are diagnosed or treated". It also contains Pectin, that helps reduce blood sugar levels and the requirement of insulin in the body by nearly 50 per cent.There is even a connection between avocados and diabetes. These genetic mutations were identified in 5.5 percent of all pancreatic cancer patients, including 5.2 percent of cancer patients without a family history of pancreatic cancer.

"Multiple genes can each increase risk of 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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