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Diabetes and cancer: placing the association in perspective

Andersen, Dana K.

Current Opinion in Endocrinology & Diabetes and Obesity: April 2013 - Volume 20 - Issue 2 - p 81–86
doi: 10.1097/MED.0b013e32835eddd3

Purpose of review The association of diabetes and cancer has received increased attention as data have emerged to indicate that the type of diabetes treatment may influence the risk of cancer, and that the risk of cancer among diabetic individuals can be reduced by intervention. The association of diabetes and pancreatic cancer is particularly strong, but often misunderstood. Long-standing type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes increase the risk for this malignancy, but the cancer can also induce pancreatogenic, or type 3c, diabetes as well.

Recent findings This review covers the recent findings which help to clarify these relationships, and offers guidance for prevention, early detection, and treatment. Obesity and, separately, diabetes increase the risk of several common malignancies by about two-fold. This risk is reduced by successful treatments. Type 3c diabetes is more common than previously realized, and strategies to differentiate type 3c diabetes from type 2 diabetes, to identify those candidates who will benefit from screening studies, are discussed.

Summary The death rate because of pancreatic and other cancers can be reduced by an aggressive approach to reversing obesity and hyperinsulinemia, achieving good glycemic control in diabetic patients, and identifying at an early timepoint those patients with pancreatogenic diabetes.

Clinical Studies Program, Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA

Correspondence to Dana K. Andersen, MD, Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, NIDDK/NIH, 2 Democracy Plaza, Room 659, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA. Tel: +1 301 594 8879; fax: +1 301 480 8300; e-mail:

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