Recent studies are revealing a possible connection between diabetes and cancer. People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing certain health conditions and cancer could be one of them. Also, people who have cancer may have an increased risk of diabetes in their future. Find out more about the diabetes and cancer connection and what you can do about it.
Diabetes and an Increased Risk of Cancer
A recent study published in the Journal of Diabetes Care revealed a connection between diabetes and an increased risk of developing cancer. The cancer and diabetes connection seems to revolve around hyperinsulinemia or more circulating insulin, insulin resistance, and systemic inflammation. While the reasons are still being studied, people with diabetes seem to have an increased risk of pancreas, liver, kidney, bladder, colon, rectum and endometrial cancer within 2 years following the diagnosis of diabetes. High body fat, a sedentary lifestyle, a poor diet high in processed foods plus older age may also play a part in this correlation. It is important to ask your doctor about getting screened for cancer so it can be treated in its early stages. It is also essential to maintain proper blood sugars when diagnosed with diabetes to reduce cancer risk.
Diabetes Lifestyle Habits Could Reduce Risk of Cancer
People with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing complications such as stroke, eye problems, nerve damage and heart disease. Certain cancers have been added to that list. Strategies traditionally used to reduce the risk of other diabetes-related complications may also help people reduce the risk of getting cancer. This includes staying physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding processed foods and quitting unhealthy habits such as smoking or heavy alcohol use.
Blood Sugar Control Matters
Keeping your blood sugar under control can make a huge difference. Have plenty of glucose test strips on hand so you can check your blood sugar level regularly. Reduce insulin resistance by participating in daily exercise to lower your cancer risk.
Some Diabetes Medications May Help
Certain diabetes medications can be helpful in reducing the risk of developing cancer. Research relating to Metformin indicates it may lower the risk of getting cancer. This is being tested in present clinical trials. Talk your doctor about diabetes medications and their possible benefits in treating other health issues.
Common Risk Factors for Diabetes and Cancer
There are common risk factors related to both cancer and diabetes. Obesity or a high BMI may influence the development of cancer and/or diabetes. Losing just 5-10% of your total body weight can improve your health and reduce these risks. Eating healthy foods can help you maintain better blood sugar control and reduce cancer risk. Include whole foods such as grass fed meats, whole grains, fresh fruits in limited portions and above ground vegetables in your daily diet and limit your intake of processed foods, red meat and alcohol. Drink water as your main liquid and include green unsweetened tea and coffee for other possible benefits to reduce cancer risk.
Fit Cancer Screenings into Your Diabetes Schedule
People with diabetes are often busy with self-management and ongoing medical visits to their health care team. This may include a dentist, endocrinologist, nephrologist, podiatrist, ophthalmologist, and cardiologist. As a result, studies show people with diabetes might be less likely to schedule essential cancer screenings, such as a mammogram to screen for breast cancer or a colonoscopy for colon cancer. It is important to maintain a schedule that includes all of your medical exams and screenings. Early detection of cancer can improve your chances of fighting it.
Quality and Duration of Life
A recent study revealed people with diabetes have an increased risk of premature death due to developing cardiovascular complications such as heart attack and stroke. They also have an increased risk of death from kidney disease, nerve ending disease and colorectal cancer. Developing good lifestyle habits can help you avoid diabetes-related complications as well as heart disease and cancer. This improves the quality of life for people with diabetes and may help them live longer. Exercise daily, eat a balanced diet and take all medications as directed by your health care team. Get all your screenings and blood work done on time.
Ways to Reduce Your Cancer and Diabetes Risks
According to Cancer.org, daily habits that increase the risk of diabetes may also affect your risk for cancer. Inactivity and poor diet are two major factors that may boost a person’s risk of cancer and diabetes-related complications. Ways to minimize your risks include regular activity, avoiding tobacco, drinking alcohol in moderation or not at all, attaining and maintaining a healthy weight and making good food choices. The World Cancer Research Fund estimates, “around 20 percent of the cancers diagnosed in the United States are related to poor nutrition, excess body fat, excessive consumption of alcohol, and lack of exercise.” Work with a team of professionals to help you get your habits balanced including a registered dietitian, diabetes nurse educator, and physical trainer. Check your Body Mass Index (BMI) to determine if you are a healthy weight. If it is a challenge to quit smoking, consider smoking cessation therapy or alternative methods such as acupuncture and hypnosis. If you consume too much alcohol, a counselor or Alcoholics Anonymous-AA may help you quit.
Choosing the Right Foods to Combat Diabetes and Cancer
Healthy foods can help people combat diabetes and cancer. Be aware of portion sizes and calories. Read the labels on food and do not be misled by labels such as “non-fat” or “low-fat.” Avoid foods with added sugars and salt. Satisfy your appetite with vegetables, beans, and whole fruit rather than snack foods and sweets. Limit your intake of processed meats, such as hot dogs and bacon. Instead, have beans, poultry, or fish. Bake, broil, boil, and grill foods rather than frying them. Select whole grain bread, pasta, and rice over white ones made with refined grains and no fiber. Limit your alcohol intake to 1 drink or less for women and 2 drinks or less for men daily. Avoid the empty calories in fruit juices, smoothies, Gatorade, fruit punch, lemonade, coconut water and regular soda. Use diabetes testing if any of these liquids are taken to check for high values. Choose plain or carbonated, calorie free, flavored water to stay hydrated instead.
People with Diabetes Should Be Screened for Cancer
A recent study conducted at the University of Toronto indicated people with diabetes have an increased risk of getting a diagnosis of cancer months later. As with using test strips for diabetes to check blood sugars, schedule routine screening tests to catch cancer in its earliest stages. Diabetes and cancer are two of the most prevalent diseases in the country and can be two of the most damaging. Find out from your physician which screenings should be included for you.
Treating Both Diabetes and Cancer
Treating both diseases can be a challenge. Keep in mind steroids often used with chemotherapy could cause blood sugars to rise. Heightened blood sugars can worsen the fatigue related to cancer. People getting cancer treatment might experience a loss of appetite, making it difficult to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. People with cancer and diabetes should keep diabetes test strips handy to check their blood glucose levels and report irregularities. Medical professionals can find ways to help patients simultaneously treat diabetes and cancer.
Ensure Your Health Team Works Together
If a person with diabetes is diagnosed with cancer, it is essential to ensure everyone in your health care team works together. Some cancer therapies can make blood sugar control worse. Discuss the options with your physicians to develop a plan that works for you. Ask questions and be your own advocate. Continue to do research and inquire about the latest research.
Learning more about the diabetes and cancer connection can help people combat both. A healthy lifestyle, regular medical appointments, and ongoing screenings make a big difference. Be proactive about your overall health so problems can be diagnosed and treated right away.