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Researchers Link Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer

Screening program recommended

Researchers at the University of Melbourne have found an apparent association between diabetes and pancreatic cancer.

In a new study published March 14 in the Annals of Surgical Oncology, clinicians worked with mathematicians to review data from 88 international studies published from 1973 to 2013. They concluded that there was a time-dependent link between being diagnosed with diabetes and pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Mehrdad Nikfarjam, a liver, pancreas, and biliary specialist in the Department of Surgery at the University of Melbourne, said pancreatic cancer was often diagnosed when at an advanced, incurable stage.

“This is an important paper that highlights for doctors that, in patients with newly diagnosed diabetes without an obvious cause, a diagnosis of underlying pancreatic cancer should be considered,” he said.

“The study revealed the risk of pancreatic cancer was greatest after the diagnosis of diabetes but remained elevated long after the diagnosis. The presence of diabetes remains a modest risk factor for the development of a cancer later in life.”

While the numbers of pancreatic cancer cases in the population were relatively low, the study suggests that a screening program should be considered.

“The priority on screening should be in patients with new-onset diabetes but can later be expanded to long-standing diabetic patients,” Nikfarjam commented.

“New-onset diabetes is more prevalent in people over the age of 55,” he said. “It may be important to consider screening all newly diagnosed diabetics for pancreatic cancer, particularly those without significant risk factors for developing diabetes in the first place.”

Source: University of Melbourne; March 14, 2014.

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