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Does Diabetes Increase The Risk Due to Cancer?

The underlying causes of diabetes also underlie cancer. Preventing diabetes can help prevent some cancers.

Is there a link between diabetes and the development and progression of cancer? Type 2 Diabetes (non-insulin dependent diabetes) and cancer share many risk factors. Scientists believe that if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, you have an increased risk for developing cancer.

Let’s examine the conditions that lead to type 2 diabetes/insulin resistance. The cells depend on glucose for meeting the body’s energy requirements. When we eat carbohydrates, the increased levels of glucose triggers the pancreas to produce the blood-sugar-regulating hormone called insulin. Insulin binds to cells and opens the pathway of the cell to allow glucose and other nutrients to enter it. But with chronically high sugar levels and the consequent high production of insulin, the insulin receptors on the cells become less responsive to insulin (insulin-resistant), which means the cells need more and more insulin to take in enough glucose. The liver cells, having become insulin resistant too, makes more glucose instead of storing it as glycogen. People with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes can have both high glucose and insulin levels. In some cases, the body has a normal glucose level but elevated insulin levels.

When insulin levels are high (hyperinsulinemia), the liver secretes more Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which is a hormone that promotes growth and prevents cell death. IGF-1,  shares a similar structure to insulin and many cells in the body have surface receptors for insulin and IGF-1. IGF-1 and insulin are both mitogenic (that encourages a cell to commence cell division, triggering mitosis), but not mutagenic (that changes genetic material). They have the potential to act as tumor growth factors.

Increased Risk of Cancer

Most cancer cells do not become insulin resistant. This means the nutrients feed the growth of cancer cells. Insulin and IGF-1 are present at high levels in insulin-resistant states. Tumors have insulin and IGF-1 receptors. The combination of high insulin and IGF-1 levels promotes the growth of cancer cells.

About half of Type 2 diabetes and all Type 1’s take insulin daily, and their blood-insulin levels spike higher than normal. Often, the insulin supplying drugs used to treat diabetes might enhance the risk of cancer.

Other shared risk factors: As a person gets older, there is a greater potential for damage to the DNA. Being overweight and obese is also a contributory factor, as a higher percentage of body fat increases inflammation, which is a risk factor for cancer.

Eating processed food and a diet low in fruits and vegetables and whole grains is a disaster-inviting combo, as such foods are low in fiber and antioxidants. Sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise help to lower body fat and also deprive the body of stimulating the immune system and eliminating the toxins through sweating and through liver and kidney metabolism.

Risk factors common to Diabetes, Cancer, and Cardio-vascular Disease

The fat-tissue hypothesis: Being overweight and obese is the most prominent risk factor for diabetes, and scientists believe that fat tissue is like an endocrine gland, producing a number of hormone-like substances. These might play a role in turning normal cells into cancerous ones, or promote cancer cell growth.

Thus, the underlying causes of diabetes also underlie cancer. Preventing diabetes can help prevent some cancers.

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