Cancer and Diabetes

This  blog explores the relationship between cancer and diabetes. We differentiate the risk of cancer for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Lastly, we explore the importance of diabetes educators in promoting lifestyle change and being involved early detection and cancer prevention.

Together, we can help those living with diabetes take early action and get appropriate screenings!

Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
What’s the Link?

Cancer is the 2nd Leading Cause of Death in the United States.

Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death.

What is the intersection between diabetes and cancer?

In 2010, Diabetes and Cancer, a Consensus Statement was the first official report that brought this connection to light. Since that initial publication, our understanding of this co-relationship continues to evolve. This article highlights these newer findings.

There are risk factors that are common to both diseases:

  • Aging
  • Obesity
  • Diet
  • Physical Inactivity
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Ethnicity

In addition, there are some possible mechanisms for a direct link. People with diabetes and cancer share:

  • Inflammation
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Hyperinsulinemia

In both conditions, cellular inflammation exists and some researchers have suggested that the abundance of glucose feeds hungry tumor cells.

Cancer and Diabetes Rates

Type 1 Diabetes and Cancer – Risk Compared to general population.

Increased Cancer Risk of:       

  • Stomach                        
  • Liver
  • Kidney
  • Pancreas
  • Endometrium

Decreased Cancer Risk of:

  • Breast
  • Prostate

Type 2 Diabetes and Cancer – Risk Compared to general population.
Increased Cancer Risk of:

  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Endometrium
  • Breast
  • Bladder
  • Colon

Decreased Cancer Risk of:

  • Prostate

Prevention and Screenings are Critical
Since the link between diabetes and cancer seems to be due in part to shared risk factors such as obesity, diet and inactivity, we can continue to promote the usual lifestyle adjustments:

  • Promote healthy diet, high in fiber, fruits and vegetables and decrease meat intake
  • Increased activity and weight loss improves outcomes of type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.
  • Strongly encourage people with diabetes to undergo appropriate cancer screenings. This is especially true for people with type 2, who tend to receive less cancer screenings than those with type 1 diabetes.

Diabetes Medications and Cancer

Some diabetes medications should not be used in patients at risk of certain cancers.

  • Pioglitazone (Actos) may increase bladder cancer risk.
  • Dapagliflozin (Farxiga) should not be used in patients with bladder cancers.
  • GLP-1 Receptor Agonists should not be used in patients at risk for medullary thyroid tumor.

Download Medication PocketCard for reference »

Metformin may have some cancer protective qualities.

Metformin is a plant based derivative. It originates from French Lilac, Galega Officinalis.

Results of a growing number of observational human studies suggest that treatment with metformin (relative to other glucose-lowering therapies) is associated with reduced risk of cancer or cancer mortality. 
There are trials underway to see if metformin is associated with slowing cellular aging and increasing telomere length. 

As diabetes educators, we can help increase awareness of the association between cancer and diabetes. We can inform and advocate to make sure patients get appropriate screenings with a focus on early detection.

Want to learn more?
Join us to explore the relationship between cancer and diabetes and to use a case study approach to determine best strategies to manage hyperglycemia during chemotherapy on steroids.

Diabetes and Cancer Course – Earn 1.5 CEs >>
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Earn 1.5 CEs and learn more about this important topic.