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Type 2 diabetes mellitus boosts risk of pancreatic cancer

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By David Liu PHD

Sunday Jan 1, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- A review first published online Dec 12, 2011 in Molecular Carcinogenesis says that type 2 diabetes mellitus is likely an important modifiable risk factor for pancreatic cancer, in addition to cigarette smoking and obesity.

Dr. Donghui Li, the author of the review, at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas says in his report the risk for pancreatic cancer in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus is 50 to 100 percent higher than those who do not have the disease, as early epidemiological studies showed.

This is not just an association, Li says.  Evidence suggests type 2 diabetes mellitus can be a cause for pancreatic cancer. The possible mechanisms behind the association between type 2 diabetes and pancreatic cancer may involve insulin resistance, and associated hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia, and inflammation.   But is is unclear what is exactly  behind both diabetes and pancreatic cancer.

Another factor that affects the risk of pancreatic cancer is use of the antidiabetic drug metformin, which reduces the risk of pancreatic cancer when it is used in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.  This means drugs like metformin may potentially be used to prevent pancreatic cancer.

Further, new-onset diabetes may be linked to increased odds of early diagnosis of sub-clinical pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is the most lethal malignancy, which is diagnosed in 44,030 people in the United States in 2011 and the disease kills about 37,660 in 2011 in the country.

Type 2 diabetes mellitus is believed to affect 26 million Americans.

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