Although half of all patients with pancreatic cancer are diabetic at the time of diagnosis, it remains unclear whether the diabetes associated with pancreatic cancer is a cause or an effect of the malignancy.
Epidemiologic studies were reviewed, the geographic prevalence of diabetes and the incidence of pancreatic cancer were examined, and clinical and laboratory studies were reviewed.
Long-standing diabetes increases the risk of pancreatic cancer by 40% to 100%, and recent-onset diabetes is associated with a 4- to 7-fold increase in risk, such that 1% to 2% of patients with recent-onset diabetes will develop pancreatic cancer within 3 years. Treatment of diabetes or morbid obesity decreases the risk of pancreatic cancer, and metformin therapy decreases the risk due to both its antidiabetic and antineoplastic effects. Recent-onset diabetes associated with pancreatic cancer likely represents secondary or type 3 diabetes. The discrimination of type 3 diabetes from the more prevalent type 2 diabetes may identify the high-risk subgroup of diabetic patients in whom potentially curable pancreatic cancer may be found.
Type 2 and type 1 diabetes mellitus increase the risk of pancreatic cancer with a latency period of more than 5 years. Type 3 diabetes mellitus is an effect, and therefore a harbinger, of pancreatic cancer in at least 30% of patients.
From the Departments of *Surgery and †Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore, MD.
Received for publication April 23, 2010; accepted October 21, 2010.
Reprints: Dana K. Andersen, MD, Department of Surgery, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, 4940 Eastern Ave, Baltimore, MD 21224 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Presented in part at the combined meeting of the American Pancreatic Association and the Japan Pancreas Society, Honolulu, Hawaii, November 5, 2009.