Pancreatic Cancer and Diabetes

The findings come from Japanese investigators who tested the technique on 86 patients in the hopes of identifying the cancer in its early stages. Although the procedure failed to find the cancer before it had spread, the results may help pinpoint which diabetic patients are most at risk.

Studies have shown diabetics run a higher risk for pancreatic cancer, but early diagnosis of these patients has been elusive and little is known about which patients are at highest risk. These researchers had previously established criteria they believe leads to an increased risk for the cancer:

Diabetic diagnosis after age 55 without obesity, alcoholism, or family history
Deterioration of glucose intolerance
Weight loss within three months, despite efforts to maintain weight and control insulin
Elevation of serum analyses
Pancreatic abnormalities on routine ultrasonography tests

All of the patients in the study met one or more of the criteria. Researchers then divided them into two groups: 36 patients had been diagnosed with diabetes within the past three years and 50 had been diagnosed more than three years earlier.

Results showed five out of the six cancers identified by endoscopy occurred in the first group of patients, leading investigators to conclude that efforts to screen diabetics at high risk for pancreatic cancer should be concentrated during the early years of the disease.

SOURCE: Cancer, 2002;54:2344-2349

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