Link Between Pancreatic Cancer and Diabetes Discovered

By Petrina Smith
Monday, 17 March, 2014

Researchers from the University of Melbourne have shown that there is an association between pancreatic cancer and diabetes.

In a new study published in Annals of Surgical Oncology, clinicians worked with mathematicians to review data from 1973 to 2013 to conclude there is a time-dependent association between diabetes and pancreatic cancer. This paper is an analysis of 88 Studies to date and is the largest analysis on the topic published to date.

Dr Mehrdad Nikfarjam, Liver, Pancreas and Biliary specialist from the Department of Surgery at the University of Melbourne said pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed when it is at an advanced, incurable stage.

“This is an important paper that highlights for doctors and in patients with newly diagnosed diabetes without an obvious cause, a diagnosis of underlying pancreatic cancer should be considered,” he said.

“The risk of pancreatic cancer was greatest after the diagnosis of diabetes but remained elevated long after the diagnosis. The presence of diabetes remains a modest risk factor for the development of a cancer later in life.”

While the numbers of pancreatic cancer in the population are relatively low, the study suggests a screening program should be considered.

“The priority on screening should be on patients with new-onset diabetes but can later be expanded to long-standing diabetic patients,” said Dr Nikfarjam.

“New onset diabetes is more prevalent in people over the age of 55. It may be important  to consider screening all newly diagnosed diabetics for pancreatic cancer, particularly those without significant risk factors for developing diabetes in the first place.”

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