Exercise caution, Type 2 diabetes may be a sign of pancreatic cancer

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A new study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, published by Oxford University Press, indicates that recent-onset type 2 diabetes may be early expression of pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer affects around 9,600 people a year and fewer than one in ten people survive for five years after their diagnosis.

The symptoms of pancreatic cancer are weight loss, fatigue and pain in the abdomen region while its major risk factors include obesity, smoking, old age as well as the family history.

Researchers from the University of Southern California have revealed that diabetes is associated with a significantly higher risk - more than twice as high - of pancreatic cancer in Hispanic people and African Americans. The participants' ages were more than 50.

The researchers examined the association between recent-onset diabetes and pancreatic cancer in a prospective study of African Americans and Latinos, two minority populations with high diabetes risk. Identification of high-risk people and ability to detect pancreatic cancer earlier would likely improve patient outcomes.

Although the exact link between both diseases is still unclear, the new study shows which two populations are most at risk and continues to move medical research forward to help find cures and save lives. As it is, about 80 percent of patients are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at a late stage.

This is striking when compared with other cancers - recently-diagnosed diabetes is only found in 6.7 per cent of bowel cancer patients, 5.3 per cent of those with breast cancer, and 5.5 per cent of prostate cancer patients.

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"By the time pancreatic cancer is found, it's nearly always spread or it's to the point where it can't be removed successfully", said Dr. Robert Rushakoff, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and medical director of the UCSF Diabetes Center. "It suggests that patients with diabetes - new-onset diabetes in particular - and their clinicians should monitor and identify their risks for pancreatic cancer".

Nevertheless, the chances of pancreatic cancer are still low even for those with a diabetes onset after 50.

Researchers from University of Southern California in the United States found that diabetes was associated with a more than twofold higher risk of pancreatic cancer in African Americans and Latinos. "There is no indication for general screening for pancreatic cancer in patients with diabetes", Rushakoff wrote in an email.

"If you really look at the type of Type 2 diabetes that pancreatic cancer patients have, the majority of those diabetes are diagnosed very, very close to the time of the cancer diagnosis", Setiawan said.

The pancreas, located in the abdomen, helps regulate blood sugar.

In pancreatic cancer with diabetes, 52.3 per cent of cases developed diabetes in the 36 months preceding the pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

The work suggests that patients with recent-onset diabetes who go on to develop pancreatic cancer represent a high-risk population of patients who can be studied for additional risk predictors and may be targeted for development of the tests that are needed for earlier diagnosis. "The prevalence of diabetes is high in these groups so confirming the association of diabetes and pancreatic cancer in these groups would be important".

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