According to a new study, cancer patients have a higher chance of getting diabetes.
‘Diabetes Care,’ a publication, published the findings. In Denmark, which has a population of about 6 million people, cancer is the top cause of death. More than 45,000 cancer cases were detected in 2019 alone. Fortunately, the most current figures show that cancer survival in Denmark has increased significantly. Nonetheless, many survivors’ quality of life is harmed by long-term repercussions and difficulties.
Higher diabetes risk associated with certain types of cancer
A recent study by researchers from Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen, Rigshospitalet, and the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise, and Sports revealed that a cancer diagnosis was linked to an increased chance of getting diabetes. The study is based on unique epidemiological data from the CopLab Database, which is kept at the Center for General Practice at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Public Health.
Certain types of cancer were more likely than others to increase this risk. Associate Professor Lykke Sylow of the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports at the University of Copenhagen, who is behind the study together with Professor Christoffer Johansen of The National Centre for Cancer Survivorship and General Late Effects (CASTLE) at Rigshospitalet and Professor Christen Lykkegaard Andersen from the CopLab Database at the Center for General Practice, states: “Our study demonstrates that there is an elevated risk of developing diabetes if a person is affected by lung, pancreatic, breast, brain, urinary tract or uterine cancers.”
The researchers looked at a large data set that included 112 million blood samples from 1.3 million Danes, with over 50,000 of them developing cancer. While the study does not provide conclusive answers as to why particular forms of cancer are linked to a higher risk of diabetes, the researchers do offer suggestions on which future research might be based.
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“Various cancer therapies may contribute to an increased risk. Cancer itself can affect the rest of the body. We know that cancer cells are able to secrete substances that can affect organs and possibly contribute to an increased incidence of diabetes. This has been suggested in animal studies,” says Lykke Sylow.
Survivability increases without diabetes
The study also demonstrates that people diagnosed with cancer and subsequently diabetes do not generally live as long as patients who do not develop diabetes while experiencing cancer.
“Across all cancer sites we observed, that cancer patients without diabetes survived longer compared to cancer patients diagnosed with diabetes,” says Professor Christoffer Johansen from Rigshospitalet.
Overall, the study finds excess mortality of 21 per cent in patients who develop diabetes after being diagnosed with cancer. It is worth noting that the study encompassed all types of cancer and did not investigate the influence of diabetes on survivability in relation to individual cancer types.
Preventive initiatives and screening
Today, the screening of cancer patients for diabetes has yet to be incorporated into the healthcare system. If it could be shown that screening cancer patients for diabetes would lead to a higher quality of life and increased survival, this would be a good idea in the future:
“Our results suggest that it might be relevant to consider diabetes screenings in relation to those cancers where we found an elevated risk of the disease. That is to say, for patients with lung cancer, breast cancer, brain cancer, uterine cancer, and urinary tract cancers. We have outstanding opportunities to treat diabetes and early intervention could have an impact on certain cancer patients,” states Professor Christoffer Johansen.
Associate Professor Lykke Sylow seconds his assertion, “It could be interesting to investigate whether screening helps cancer patients – both in terms of their chances of survival as well as their quality of life. As a preventive initiative, it might also be possible to recommend different types of exercise for people with cancer, ones that we know work effectively to prevent and treat diabetes. But my suggestions are to be taken in a long-term perspective and need to be tested,” she concluded.
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