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Nobel Prize-winning physiologist and biochemist Otto Warburg hypothesized more than 90 years ago that cancer cells prefer sugars for energy.
Jump forward to today… when according to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 1.9 million Americans will be diagnosed with some form of the disease this year alone.
That’s almost two million people who will find themselves facing the battle of their lives — for their lives.
And sadly according to a study by researchers at the University of Copenhagen, even if they win that battle, there could be more danger in store for them down the road.
That’s because they’ve now determined that having cancer sets you up for another disease — diabetes. Surprised?
Some cancers are worse than others for blood sugar
To make that determination, the scientists examined a massive set of data, including 112 million blood samples from 1.3 million people, comparing the diabetes risk of those with cancer to those who were cancer-free.
And the results were clear…
A cancer diagnosis was associated with a significantly elevated risk of developing diabetes.
And to top it off, certain types of cancer came with the highest risk of blood sugar problems.
“Our study demonstrates that there is an elevated risk of developing diabetes if a person is affected by lung, pancreatic, breast, brain, urinary tract or uterine cancers,” says Associate Professor Lykke Sylow of the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports at the University of Copenhagen.
While the study didn’t delve into the reason behind the elevated risk that comes with certain types of cancer, the researchers did have a theory to explain the phenomenon.
“Various cancer therapies may contribute to an increased risk. The cancer itself can affect the rest of the body. We know that cancer cells are able to secrete substances that can affect organs and possibly contribute to an increased incidence of diabetes. This has been suggested in animal studies,” says Lykke Sylow.
But there’s another reason to avoid diabetes as much as possible following cancer…
“Across all cancer sites we observed, that cancer patients without diabetes survived longer compared to cancer patients diagnosed with diabetes,” says study author, Professor Christoffer Johansen.
In fact, the results determined that in patients who develop diabetes post-cancer, there is an excess mortality rate of 21 percent!
Know your risk and get screened
Because these risks were so great, the researchers recommend that cancer patients everywhere discuss possible blood sugar issues with their doctors.
“Our results suggest that it might be relevant to consider diabetes screenings in relation to those cancers where we found an elevated risk of the disease. That is to say, for patients with lung cancer, breast cancer, brain cancer, uterine cancer, and urinary tract cancers. We have outstanding opportunities to treat diabetes and early intervention could have an impact on certain cancer patients,” says Johansen.
Additionally, because cancer patients with diabetes face an increased risk of death, taking steps to maintain healthy blood sugar levels could be the key to increasing their survival odds.
Some easy tips include:
- Following an alkaline diet — which includes more vegetables and has limitations on grains, similar to restrictions for a low carb diet and diet recommendations for cancer survivors.
- Eating more vegetables can also help your body produce nitric oxide, a compound for heart health that also was found to help keep insulin resistance at bay.
- Avoiding the gum disease/vitamin deficiency double whammy that skyrockets your chances of developing diabetes.
- Drinking a shot of protein before meals.
- Snacking on berries. These fruits contain a mixture of bioactive compounds known as phenols. Phenols fight obesity, inflammation and high blood sugar and may be an agent for reducing the metastatic potential of some cancer cells.
It’s clear now that diabetes is a real threat to the longevity of cancer survivors. Luckily, there are simple ways to keep your blood sugar levels healthy. Take the steps above and ask your doctor about regular screening.
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Cancer Facts & Figures 2022 – American Cancer Society
Cancer increases the risk of developing diabetes – EurekAlert!