Is there a link between cancer and diabetes?

Published on: 29 May 2022, 12:00 pm IST
Did you know that cancer and diabetes are interrelated? If not, read on to know the connection between the two.
Dr Anadi Pachaury
These factors tell you that there’s a possible link between cancer and diabetes. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock
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Cancer can be devastating for many people. It is the abnormal growth of cells that develop uncontrollably, spreading to other parts of the body. Cancer is typically caused by DNA changes or mutations within cells that disrupt normal cell growth, resulting in the development of cancerous cells. In fact, according to recent studies, cancer is the world’s second-leading cause of death, with various types of cancer-based on the body part affected. Certain pre-existing chronic medical conditions like diabetes increase associated cancer risks. Though cancer and diabetes are not directly linked, they impact each other.

Diabetes causes high blood sugar levels which can suppress and damage the body’s DNA. DNA changes may increase risks of growth of cancerous cells. Particularly, those with Type-2 Diabetes double their risks of developing liver, colorectal, endometrial, breast, bladder and pancreatic cancer. Certain cancer treatments can also raise or suppress insulin levels which can pose diabetes risks on cancer patients. Early detection through health check-ups and screenings is crucial for reducing the risk of developing diabetes and/or cancer, as well as ensuring a timely cure.

Link between cancer and diabetes:

Associated risks of developing cancer increase as diabetes and cancer share common symptoms and risk factors like:

  1. Age :Though not generalized, diabetes and cancer disease risks increase with age.
  2. Obesity: Those with excess body weight are high risk groups for Type 2 Diabetes and certain cancers, particularly stomach, uterine, kidney and colorectal cancer. Also, overweight individuals are likely to produce excess adipokines hormones due to fatty tissues which can cause inflammation, a risk factor of cancer.
  3. Poor habits: Excessive smoking and alcohol further raise risks.
  4. Sedentary lifestyle: An inactive lifestyle can cause multiple health disorders, particularly increasing Type 2 Diabetes, and cancer risks.
Some lifestyle factors may also alleviate the risk of cancer. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3 ways in which one can reduce cancer and diabetes risks:

Preventive measures can reduce shared risks of developing both severe conditions. Alternatively, chronic diabetic patients must look for symptom management and associated cancer prevention like:

1. Healthy diet

Obesity is both a risk factor and symptom of diabetes and cancer. Therefore, one must consume a low fat, non-fat dairy, and well-balanced diet to maintain a healthy weight. In particular, diabetics can manage their blood sugar levels by limiting red and processed meat intake. Instead, opting for high fiber foods present in whole grains and vegetables is recommended.

To prevent risks of cancer and diabetes, strike that perfect balance to keep yourself healthy while consuming your favourite foods! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

2. Physical activity

One should aim for regular cardiovascular exercise or at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly for diabetes management, cancer prevention and overall health.

3. Routine check-ups

Routine follow-up checks and recommended screenings are important for early detection, timely treatment, and management. Particularly, risk groups like older age groups and those with a family history of diabetes and cancer must schedule doctor consultations and relevant tests.

Overall, diabetes and cancer are serious conditions that require timely treatment. In fact, delayed diagnosis and treatment can hinder recovery and even have fatal consequences due to aggravated symptoms. Diabetics must also manage their symptoms based on a doctor’s advice and medications to avoid blood sugar spikes and the associated cancer risks.

Dr Anadi Pachaury

Consultant - Surgical Oncology, HCMCT Manipal Hospital, Dwarka

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