A new Mayo Clinic study found that 40% of pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed with diabetes prior to their pancreatic cancer diagnosis. The onset of diabetes appears to occur many months (in some cases up to 2 years) prior to cancer diagnosis. This information provides researchers an important clue for earlier detection of pancreatic cancer. The study was published in the January issue of Gastroenterology.
"Our previous studies have shown an association between recent diagnoses of diabetes and pancreatic cancer," says Suresh Chari, MD, a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist and the study's lead author. "We are now quite convinced that in most patients with pancreatic cancer the diabetes is caused by the cancer and not the other way around. Our next step is to identify a biomarker for pancreatic cancer–induced diabetes in order to screen patients with new-onset diabetes for early pancreatic cancer and provide surgical treatment as quickly as possible."
Cost-Effective Screening Test Sought
The study reviewed the medical records of 736 pancreatic cancer patients and 1,875 healthy individuals with fasting blood glucose data in their medical record. The researchers found that 40% of pancreatic cancer patients were diagnosed with diabetes, while only 20% of healthy individuals had fasting blood glucose levels in the diabetic range.
Type 2 diabetes is far more common than pancreatic cancer–induced diabetes. Only 1 in 125 patients over age 50 with new-onset diabetes will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Dr. Chari's team continues work in identifying the differences between pancreatic cancer–induced diabetes and regular type 2 diabetes, seeking a cost-effective means of screening for pancreatic cancer using a blood test that can identify individuals who have new-onset diabetes and are more likely to have pancreatic cancer.