Several news outlets, including the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, have reported on a major study which found that recent diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, or deterioration in existing diabetes, could be early signs of pancreatic cancer. This adds to a strong existing body of research suggesting diabetes can be a symptom of pancreatic cancer, and that people with diabetes may have a higher risk of developing the disease.
Over 800,000 people with diabetes took part in the research and of those, around 3,000 people went on to develop pancreatic cancer. The researchers in France, Belgium and Italy found that half of those people with pancreatic cancer had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes up to a year ago.
Significantly, the study also found that people who already had type 2 diabetes which had recently deteriorated, were seven times more likely to be diagnosed with the disease. This important finding could help provide a vital early warning sign for pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic Cancer UK says the results of the research show the pressing need to investigate a biomarker in people with newly diagnosed or deteriorated type 2 diabetes. This could eventually lead to a screening test for pancreatic cancer for people in this group.
The research was presented at the European Cancer Congress 2017 in Amsterdam.
Anna Jewell, Director of Operations at Pancreatic Cancer UK, said:
"We urgently need to find new ways to diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier, because 80 per cent of people with the disease are diagnosed at an advanced stage, when there are very few treatment options.
"These results are incredibly helpful in demonstrating the importance of research to pinpoint a biomarker that could be used to develop a screening tool to diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier in people with recently diagnosed or deteriorated diabetes.
"However, people in this group should not panic about the potential link between their condition and pancreatic cancer. But it is important that they are aware of it, and if they have concerns we would encourage them to discuss this with their GP or the nurses on our Support Line. If people are experiencing new symptoms such as tummy pain that can spread to the back, oily floating poo, unexplained weight loss, indigestion or heartburn or jaundice, they should also raise this with their GP.
"Just five per cent of people with pancreatic cancer currently live for five years or more after diagnosis. That’s why it’s vital we explore every promising avenue which may lead us to a screening test, so more patients can be diagnosed earlier when they have more treatment options, and have the chance of spending longer with their families."