A very important question that gets asked a lot in medical circles concerns a possible diabetes and cancer link. Does having diabetes make you more susceptible to getting cancer at some stage in your lifetime? Unfortunately the evidence suggests that there is a definite link between the two, the reasons however are not so clear.
There appears to be evidence that suggests that there is a diabetes and cancer link. In fact more people with diabetes die from certain types of cancer than non-diabetics. Scientists however have not yet proved anything definitive, only that there is evidence that suggests a link.
NB It is advised that you get screened for cancer regularly if you are a diabetic.
Scientists have not solved the diabetes and cancer link yet
Although there is lots of research and evidence that suggests there is a link, scientists cannot definitively answer the questions as to why or how there is one. It appears certain that more research and scientific study will be needed to be undertaken in the future to solve the puzzle.
What cancers are most common in diabetics?
There are specific types of cancers that are much more common in diabetics than non diabetics. For instance cancers in the liver, pancreas, and uterus are almost twice as likely to occur in people with diabetes as those without the disease. While cancers in other areas of the body such as the colon, bladder and breast are higher for diabetics but they are only half as strong. Interestingly, cancers in other areas of the body provide no link at all to diabetes, while having diabetes may protect again something like prostate cancer possibly due to lower testosterone levels in the body.
The most obvious links
The three obvious reasons of why there is a link between diabetes and cancer comes down to three main factors – insulin production, high blood sugar levels and inflammation. It maybe that these three factors are individual risks. It is more likely that a combination of all three factors is the biggest risk.
Importantly for type 1 diabetics studies have not found a connection between insulin taken as medication and cancer. However research suggests that when the body makes too much insulin, the risk for cancer also increases. People with type 2 diabetes are insulin resistant, which means that their bodies produce lots of insulin most of which is underutilised by the body. This maybe a factor in determining a diabetes and cancer link.
High blood sugar
Cancer cells run on glucose. They are very adept at absorbing glucose from the blood without a need for insulin. It makes sense then that high blood sugar levels would fuel cancer’s growth in the body.
Chronic inflammation affects those who are diabetic as well as those who are obese. Inflammation happens when there are elevated levels of certain molecules in the blood such as C reactive protein. Some of these molecules are linked to certain types of cancer, suggesting that inflammation may connect diabetes, obesity, and cancer.
Researchers can’t rule out that a trait such as obesity raises the risk for both cancer and diabetes. That would suggest that proving a diabetes and cancer link may not be as easy to do.
Type 2 diabetes and cancer evidence
The evidence for a link between type 2 diabetes and cancer link is more pronounced than for type 1 diabetes. The risks of contracting the following cancers are shown to be doubled by the presence of type 2 diabetes: Liver cancer, pancreatic cancer and womb cancer
Type 2 risk factors
Type 2 diabetes and certain cancers share some risk factors:
- Age– The older you get the more your risk profile for both diabetes and cancer goes up.
- Gender– Unfortunately for us lads the statistics say that we are more likely to develop both type 2 diabetes and cancer in our lifetimes.
- Overweight– Being overweight can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.
- Inactivity– The more sedentary lifestyle you lead the more your chances of type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer elevates. This is a great reason to start getting active.
- Race/ethnicity– Many races including African Americans are a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and getting
Type 1 diabetes and cancer evidence
Type 1 diabetes and cancer links are a little harder to prove with hard evidence. Although there are specific types of cancer that appear to increase for type 1 diabetics. These include stomach cancer and cervical cancer. These cancers are different than those linked to type 2 diabetics.
How to lower your risk profile
Lose some weight– This is an absolute no brainer. If you are overweight then your risk profile for all the bad things in life skyrockets. It may take some time and some new habits may need to be formed but it is well worth the effort to lose a few pounds, especially around the mid rift.
Eat a healthy diet– There are plenty of blog posts on this website that you can follow to find a healthy eating plan, the main thing is that you find one and you stick to it. You should look to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Go for low starchy vegetables. Please see my blog post on diabetes and the best vegetables here.
Also think to eat wholegrain when you shop for cereals and breads. You will need to keep an eye on the carb content of the grains that you eat but wholegrain will beat anything refined or processed every time.
Lower fat good are also a wise alternative for things such as dairy products such as cheese and yogurt.
Lean meats are also a very good alternative. Animal fats are the bad kind of fats that you want in your body. Fish is the best option as far as meat goes. For things like chicken, steak and lamb be sure to trim the fat and skin off the animal before cooking. Try not to deep fry anything you eat and try to watch your portion sizes.
If you are struggling in the kitchen and need some inspiration please see my blog post reviewing the diabetes destroyer system here.
Get active– Again you have come to the right place for advice on finding a fitness regime here. You should aim to exercise 5 times per week ideally for at least 40 minutes per session. You should look to combine cardiovascular activity with resistance or strength training. Please see my blog post on diabetes exercise programs here.
Quit smoking – I went cold turkey over a year ago and I haven’t looked back. It was hard at first but it got easier. I found it especially hard when I would drink alcohol so it may make sense to take a month off the booze while you quite the habit. A longer, healthier life awaits you when you quit smoking. Please see my blog post on diabetes and smoking here.
Unfortunately there is a definite link between certain forms of cancer and diabetes. There is still a lot more research that is required before definitive conclusions can be made. It is important to get screened for cancer regularly if you are a diabetic and make healthy lifestyle choices that ensure that you are taking active steps to avoid any complications associated with having diabetes.
Please get in touch with me below to add your thoughts on a possible diabetes and cancer link.