Is High Blood Sugar a Potential Risk Factor for Cancer?
Cancer remains the most dreaded disease globally and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2018, it killed 9.6 million people worldwide, or one in six. Meanwhile, high blood sugar or diabetes is one of the most common lifestyle diseases, which if left uncontrolled can affect our heart, kidneys and other organs and can even be fatal.
Some may be aware that people with diabetes are thought to be at a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer, although no direct link has been conclusively established. However, considering the life-threatening effects of both conditions, it makes sense to be aware of the consequences and take necessary precautions. Ahead of World Cancer Day 2023, which is on 4th February, let us examine the possible risk factors and ways to reduce the risk of cancer in diabetics.
Potential risk factors
Given the potential association between diabetes and cancer, it is important to know the potential factors that are common to both conditions, especially type 2 diabetes (T2D). some of them are:
Increased insulin and other growth factors: Elevated insulin levels in a person’s body are believed to increase the risk of pancreatic, colorectal, endometrial, bladder and postmenopausal cancers.
chronic inflammation: T2D and obesity can lead to chronic low-grade inflammation, a condition in which the production of free radicals disrupts insulin signaling.
Obesity and overweight: Both conditions can predispose people to cancer due to a higher risk of insulin resistance and cell inflammation, among other reasons.
Effects of Hyperglycemia: High blood sugar levels can trigger an increase in free radicals as well as other reactive molecules that promote the growth of malignant cells.
Five Ways to Manage Cancer With Diabetes
Here are five guidelines for reducing cancer risk, especially for people with diabetes:
1. Maintain a healthy level of body fat: Excess fat is linked to both diabetes and other cancers. Belly fat can lead to insulin resistance, which leads to high blood sugar levels that increase the risk of inflammatory cytokines. In turn, cytokines released from fat cells increase both cell inflammation and insulin resistance risk, which are linked to cancer. In reducing weight, it is recommended to lose two to eight kilos per month for maximum benefits.
2. Eat more vegetables, beans, fruits, and whole grains: Plant-based diet helps reduce the risk of cancer. Plants contain high amounts of nutrients and dietary fiber that protect people from developing cancer. For example, dietary fiber is known to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Ideally, the diet should include 2.5 cups of nonstarchy items, along with a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans.
3. Limit red meat and all types of processed meat: According to some studies, daily consumption of meat can increase the chances of colorectal cancer by up to 17%. Meat packaged by salting, smoking or adding preservatives should also be avoided and replaced with legumes and fibrous foods.
4. Avoid Alcohol: WHO has recently clarified that even moderate consumption of alcohol is not safe. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies alcohol as a Group 1 carcinogen and a toxic, dependence-inducing substance. Alcohol is believed to cause at least seven types of cancer, including common forms such as female breast cancer and bowel cancer.
5. Avoid sedentary lifestyle: Regular physical activity helps reduce body fat, keep diabetes under control, and reduce the risk of cancer, especially endometrial, colorectal, and postmenopausal cancer. At least 30 minutes of physical activity daily, including walking, is recommended. This can then be increased to 30 minutes of vigorous and 60 minutes of moderate activity.