How to Break the Link Between Diabetes and Cancer

How to Break the Link Between Diabetes and Cancer

People who have diabetes are at risk of many other diseases—including cancer.

Diabetes. We know many of you get anxious about it because it can lead to heart attack, blindness, gastrointestinal problems, depression, kidney dysfunction and chronic neuropathy. And we know you wish you didn’t have to deal with it. That may be why almost half of you fail to meet your blood sugar control goals, which could help you dodge those complications.

But type 2 diabetes is a reality for 31 million US citizens (over 7.2 million are not yet diagnosed!). There are also 84 million folks with prediabetes (it has its own serious health risks), and one-third of them will develop full-blown type 2. If you’re in one of those groups, listen up! The way to check diabetes off your worry list is to face it and beat it—and you can! Here’s a little fuel.

If dodging blindness, dementia, heart attack, stroke and nerve pain aren’t incentive enough to make the lifestyle adjustments and take the medications that can prevent, control and even reverse type 2 diabetes, a new study ups the ante. A global review by the George Institute for Global Health involving almost 20 million people found having diabetes significantly raises the risk of developing cancer, and for women the increased risk is especially elevated.

Women with diabetes are 27 percent more likely to develop any form of cancer than women without diabetes; for men with diabetes, the risk is 19 percent higher. In addition, compared to men with diabetes, women’s risk of kidney cancer is 11 percent higher, oral cancer is 13 percent higher, stomach cancer 14 percent higher and leukemia 15 percent higher.

Why are women more vulnerable?
The researchers theorize it may be that women remain prediabetic with impaired glucose tolerance two years longer on average than men. They’re often undertreated when first symptomatic, are less likely to receive intensive care and are not taking the same levels of medications as men.

And for both men and women, what is the connection between diabetes and cancer?
Apparently, elevated blood glucose contributes to DNA damage and those genetic mutations fuel cancer. Yikes!

Controlling and reversing diabetes and prediabetes 
If you have been told you have prediabetes or you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you can reverse and control your condition!

For prediabetes, lifestyle upgrades can reduce your risk of developing full-blown diabetes by 58 percent; medications are only successful about 31 percent of the time! And for those with full-blown type 2 diabetes, at Dr. Mike’s Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, 60 percent of folks who follow an intensive treatment program can achieve and maintain an A1C of 5 to 5.8 percent (that’s a measure of your average blood glucose levels over time and a sign of being non-diabetic).

So, now’s the time to:

  • Aim to lose 7 percent of your body weight.
  • If you haven’t been exercising regularly, walk 30 minutes a day now (it cuts your risk of developing full-blown diabetes by 30 percent) and work up to 10,000 steps a day (that’s the magic number that breaks down insulin resistance in leg muscles). You can track your steps with the Sharecare app, available for iOS and Android. And if you already have diabetes, multiple studies find that regular exercise can reduce glucose levels significantly, as well as the need for medications.
  • And don’t stop with walking. Do strength/muscle building exercises two days a week for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Turn off the tube—or watch TV while on a treadmill or stationary bicycle. Sitting and watching two hours of television daily raises your risk of developing diabetes by 23 percent!
  • Eat seven to nine servings of veggies and fruit daily; ditch all red and processed meats and added sugars, and eliminate exposure to plastics made with BPA and BPS (don’t use containers marked with the recycle numbers 1, 3, 6 and 7).

If those steps can help you prevent, reverse or control diabetes and dodge cancer, that’s a double benefit! You can do it!

Medically reviewed in July 2019.

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