A Diabetes Diagnosis After Age 50 May Be an Early Sign of Pancreatic Cancer in Black, Latino People

The Association Between Pancreatic Cancer and Type 2 Diabetes in Minorities

The pancreas is a gland behind the stomach that secretes digestive enzymes and releases hormones, such as insulin and glucagon, that help to control blood glucose (sugar), according to Johns Hopkins University. According to the NCI, about 1.6 percent of people in the United States will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at some point in their lifetime.

The incidence of pancreatic cancer among black people specifically is about 25 percent higher than it is in white people, according to the American Cancer Society. Yet, says Setiawan, “Blacks and Latinos are understudied, and thus very little is known about the relationship between diabetes and pancreatic cancer in these two populations.”

Additionally, both black and Latino people have higher rates of type 2 diabetes than the general population, according to the American Diabetes Association. That’s why her team focused on those groups.

Rahil Bandukwala, DO, an endocrinologist at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California, who wasn’t involved in the research, says the results seem to align with what he’s seen in his nearly 20 years of practicing medicine, but he would be interested in seeing more long-term data. He notes a limitation of the study that the authors acknowledge in their paper: The research relied on self-reporting when determining the diabetes diagnoses, Medicare claims, and hospital discharge records. And so the recorded onset dates may have been imprecise. “It would be good to better understand when the diabetes truly came about and follow the participants out from there — to see who gets pancreatic cancer and who doesn’t.”

But previous research seems to support the current study’s findings. For example, nearly 40 percent of people with pancreatic cancer had also developed diabetes within the three years prior to their cancer diagnosis, according to the findings of a review of 500 medical records that was published in the March 2013 issue of Pancreas.

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