Nov 16, 2021
November is National Diabetes Month and at OncoPower we want to raise awareness and educate about this very common disease. Diabetes is a condition where your body does not regulate your blood sugar correctly. Over time, this disease is known to lead to heart, kidney, nerve, and eye damage. About 30 million people in America have diabetes and 1 in 3 adults have prediabetes. Since it is so common and can have so many negative effects, many of you may be asking: how does diabetes affect cancer and cancer treatment?
There is a large and growing body of evidence which links diabetes to increased cancer risk. People with diabetes are twice as likely as their non-diabetic counterparts to develop pancreatic, liver, and endometrial cancers. They are also more likely to develop colorectal, breast, and bladder cancer. Interestingly, men with diabetes are actually less likely to develop prostate cancer.
Women with diabetes and breast cancer are more likely to die from the disease, and overall patients with diabetes have higher rates of recurrence and 41% high risk of death than cancer patients without diabetes.
Scientists believe that there is a link between the increased insulin and increased blood glucose in cancer patients and the development and progression of cancer. Cancer cells primarily use sugar as their fuel, at a much higher rate than non-cancerous cells; in a person with chronically high blood sugar, this could be a cause for tumor growth. Additionally, diabetes is far more likely to develop in patients with excess body fat, and fat tissue is known to secrete hormones and chemicals which increase inflammation and the risk of many types of cancer.
The treatment for diabetes may also play a part in cancer development, with those who take metformin having a reduced risk of cancer and cancer mortality and those who take insulin having an increased risk of cancer. The exact cause of the higher risk of cancer and cancer-related death in diabetes is difficult to tease out, as many of the mechanisms overlap and happen at the same time.
Cancer treatment types can vary widely and their effect on blood sugar is also variable. For example, steroid use can cause high blood sugar and some chemotherapy drugs can actually induce insulin resistance. Your treatment team will discuss any risks of your specific treatment with you and address any issues that arise.
Controlling your blood sugar is important to preventing diabetes from developing, or preventing its progression. Following healthy eating guidelines, like those from the American Cancer Society and the American Diabetes Association, will lead to better blood sugar and weight control, and increased intake of cancer-fighting compounds like antioxidants and phytonutrients. Key recommendations include:
Interested in learning how to control your blood sugar with a cancer diagnosis? Join our community at OncoPower to connect with Registered Dietitians, Oncologists, and other Professionals. You’ll get personalized answers to your most important questions.