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Type 2 Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer: What’s the Connection?

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According to Cancer.org, pancreatic cancer is simply more common in people who have diabetes, although the reason is not known. Most of the risk is found in those who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the type of diabetes that begins in adulthood and is often related to obesity. It is unclear whether or not those with type 1 (juvenile) diabetes also have a higher risk.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which someone’s body does not make or properly use a pancreatic hormone known as insulin. Insulin helps the body utilize glucose, or sugar, efficiently by allowing it to enter cells to be used for energy. But when diabetes is present, the body either does not produce enough insulin or the amount produced is not sufficient, and instead of entering cells, the glucose produced stays in the blood, resulting in high glucose levels, which can lead to a variety of medical problems, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Blindness
  • Kidney disease
  • Neuropathy
  • Cell damage and long-term complications

Approximately 25.8 million people in the United States, or 8.3 percent of the population, have diabetes: 18.8 million have been diagnosed, while 7.0 million are unaware that they have the disease.

Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer

Diabetes can be a risk factor or symptom of pancreatic cancer, which is more likely to occur in those who have had diabetes for at least five years than in people who do not have diabetes at all. People managing their type 2 diabetes through the use of prescription drugs like Januvia, Janumet, Byetta, and Victoza are filing hundreds of pancreatic cancer lawsuits alleging that the side effects of these drugs, known as incretin mimetics, also increase the risk of pancreatic cancer and that drug makers failed to warn the public about these risks and instead continued to market the drugs.