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Does diabetes cause pancreatic cancer?

diabetes1.fwSometimes I hear people ask, “Does diabetes cause pancreatic cancer?” No, but diabetes is a risk factor for pancreatic cancer. We know that diabetics, especially those with long-standing Type II diabetes, have a higher risk of developing cancer of the pancreas than those who have no history of diabetes.

The number of people diagnosed with diabetes has tripled since 1980 in the United States. Nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes, that’s nearly 10% of the population.

Diabetes is a disorder of the metabolism, involving how our body uses sugar, or glucose. There are three types of diabetes: type I, II and gestational, or pregnancy-related. The most common type is type II. Type II diabetes comprises about 90%-95% of people with diabetes. It’s associated with older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, physical inactivity and certain ethnicities.

Over the last 30 years, we’ve become a nation that is more overweight, less active and that eats more processed foods. If the current trend continues in the United States, one in three American adults will have diabetes in 2050.

The good news is we can decrease our risk of pancreatic cancer by preventing diabetes or managing diabetes if you already have it.

Tips for diabetes prevention:

  • Exercise – this can boost your sensitivity to insulin and lower your blood sugar. It also helps you maintain a healthy weight.
  • If you’re overweight – lose it. This not only decreases your risk of diabetes, but also decreases your risk of pancreatic cancer.
  • Diet – eat fiber and whole grains. Eating healthy protein sources like nuts, beans, poultry and fish is beneficial. Avoid processed foods like white bread, white rice, white pasta, sugary drinks. Avoid red meats, hot dogs and bacon.

The overall theme for disease prevention includes three main rules: maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and eating right. A few years back I had a family member who was diagnosed with type II diabetes. His blood sugar at diagnosis was more than 700, and he knew he had to make some changes. Within six months of diagnosis, he was off all insulin and the oral medication that helps control diabetes. This was accomplished through diet and exercise. I’ve seen other people make lifestyle changes in my nursing practice which can result in equal major health benefits. If you are concerned about diabetes, speak with your healthcare provider.

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