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Higher Fasting Glucose Increases Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Pancreatic cancer cells

Researchers have identified a link between elevated blood sugar levels and incidence rates of pancreatic cancer.

With a five-year survival rate of only 9%, pancreatic cancer is not easily diagnosed and frequently remains undetected until after it has spread, resulting in an average of 45,750 deaths per year. While diabetes is a known risk factor, the connection between increased pancreatic cancer rates and elevated glucose levels in pre- and non-diabetic patients had not been identified until now.

In their nationwide study now published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Dong-Hoe Koo, MD, PhD, of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at Kangbuk Samsung Hospital in Seoul, South Korea, and colleagues evaluated pancreatic cancer incidence rates based on differing blood sugar levels. Using a national population-based cohort database, the investigators examined the preventative health exam data of 25.4 million South Korean patients.

Dr. Koo and colleagues classified patients into six fasting glucose levels: low normal (<90 mg/dL), high normal (90-99 mg/dL), prediabetes level 1 (100-109 mg/dL), prediabetes level 2 (110-125 mg/dL), diabetes (≥126 mg/dL), and diabetes on anti-diabetic medications. Researchers found the following five-year cumulative incidence rates of pancreatic cancer per 100,000 patients: 32 for patients with low normal glucose, 41 for patients with high normal glucose, 50 for patients with prediabetes level 1, 64 for patients with prediabetes level 2, 75 for patients with diabetes, and 121 for patients with diabetes receiving anti-diabetic medications.

"Diabetes is one of the established risk factors for pancreatic cancer," comments the study's corresponding author, Cheol-Young Park, MD, PhD, of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at Kangbuk Samsung Hospital. "When we evaluated the pancreatic cancer incidence according to fasting glucose levels using a national cohort database, we found the number of pancreatic cancer cases rose as fasting glucose levels increased. This was true in people who had diabetes as well as those who did not."

Dr. Park concludes, "Our research implies that early detection of hyperglycemia in health checkups and lifestyle modification to improve glucose profile might offer a critical opportunity for lowering the risk of pancreatic cancer."

For More Information

Koo DH, Han KD & Park CY (2019). The incremental risk of pancreatic cancer according to fasting glucose levels: nationwide population-based cohort study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. [Epub ahead of print] DOI:10.1210/jc.2019-00033

Image credit: Min Yu

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