How does diabetes increase my risk for pancreatic cancer?


Diabetes is related to the pancreas, but the chance of a new diagnosis of diabetes doesn't necessarily mean pancreatic cancer is looming ahead. Learn more in this video with Frederick Cason, MD, from Oak Hill Hospital.

Pancreatic cancer is two times more likely to occur in people who have diabetes than in people who do not have diabetes. However, the relationship between diabetes and pancreatic cancer is still not completely understood. It is not uncommon for individuals to develop diabetes before pancreatic cancer is detected, and it may be that this glucose intolerance is actually caused by changes in the pancreas resulting from the cancer.

Diabetes is a condition that is marked by high blood sugar and glucose intolerance. It occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin to properly metabolize, or break down, glucose in the system, or when the body cannot properly use existing insulin. Since insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas, the development of diabetes can be linked to problems in the pancreas.

Sudden onset of diabetes in people with normal body mass index is often a warning sign of pancreatic abnormalities and can be a symptom of pancreatic cancer. Additionally, when well-controlled diabetes suddenly becomes brittle or poorly controlled, this change can also be a warning sign for pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not adequately produce or use insulin, a hormone normally made by the pancreas. Insulin helps the body utilize glucose (sugar), allowing glucose to enter cells and be used for energy. With diabetes, you see abnormal growth of insulin, which can lead to abnormal cell growth. Additionally, in people with diabetes, the glucose remains in the blood, resulting in high blood glucose levels, which can cause cell damage and long-term complications.

Research shows that diabetes can either be a risk factor or symptom of pancreatic cancer. Most of the risk is found in people with type-2 diabetes; this type of diabetes most often starts in adulthood. For many physicians, this is the most feared cancer because it is often so difficult to detect until it gets into the advanced stages.

Diabetes is also linked to liver, uterine and bladder cancer.

This content originally appeared on

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.