The Link Between Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer
Being diabetic means having to be exceptionally watchful when it comes to your overall health: food intake and regular diet, exercise, and monitoring your blood sugar should all be part of your daily routine. Scientists have discovered that diabetics may have another complication to consider: a link between diabetes and pancreatic cancer. And while being diabetic doesn’t mean that you’re destined to develop pancreatic cancer, research suggests that diabetics are at greater risk to develop the disease.
About 80 percent of pancreatic cancer patients are also diabetic, or have glucose intolerance problems. Since diabetes reduces or eliminates your body’s ability to create its own insulin, the hormone that regulates your body’s blood sugar levels, the connection between pancreatic cancer and diabetes may be the inability of the pancreas to do its job.
While type 1 diabetes is usually caused by genetic or environmental factors, type 2 diabetes is often caused by lifestyle factors like diet and lack of exercise. And while making lifestyle changes can help you avoid developing diabetes or lessen the symptoms of the disease, it may reduce your risk for developing pancreatic cancer as well.
Treatment for diabetes and pancreatic cancer
The symptoms and complications of diabetes can range from the typical—constant or intense thirst, frequent urination and fatigue—to more serious complications like decreased blood circulation and chronic skin infections. Talk to a doctor with expertise in endocrinology, and tell him or her about any changes in your overall health that could signal the development of pancreatic cancer. Two of the medications used to treat diabetes, exenatide and sitagliptin, are suspected to increase the risk for pancreatic cancer by a factor of six, so patients who take either of those medications should monitor their health for signs of the disease.
Preventing diabetes and pancreatic cancer
Because a healthy diet and a regular exercise regimen can decrease the symptoms of diabetes and lower risk of pancreatic cancer, it’s important that diabetics eat diets a large amount of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and non-fat dairy products. Smoking also increases risk for both diabetes and pancreatic cancer, so quitting smoking is also important. If you’re unsure of how to begin changing your diet and exercise schedule, talk to your doctor to craft a wellness plan that you can stick to long-term.
Living with diabetes doesn’t have to mean that you’re unhealthy—but it does require that you maintain a healthy lifestyle and do what you can to keep your blood sugar levels stable. As more research is conducted to prove the links between diabetes and pancreatic cancer, diabetics may have to do more to reduce their risk for complications from either disease. But with support from medical professionals and a commitment to keeping your condition at bay, you can be healthier and happier.