New York Times Blog Talks Diabetes and Cancer

The other day, New York Times blogger Anahad O'Connor wrote about juggling diabetes and cancer, noting that as many as one in five cancer patients also has diabetes.

To those of us who write about cancer almost every day, this blog entry serves as a reminder of why balancing anti-cancer treatments and diabetes poses such a challenge for these patients:

  • - Chemotherapy treatments tend to do terrible things to one's taste buds and appetite; things can taste metallic or worse, one can develop mouth sores and other digestive tract problems, and of course they often cause nausea and/or vomiting—all of which can make eating seem about as unappealing as possible, leading to excessively low blood sugar levels and potential health crises.
  • - It often doesn't matter what other disease a person might have; when someone receives a cancer diagnosis, his or her life comes to a screeching halt, and this person will likely prioritize cancer treatment to the exclusion of almost everything else.

Other notable points include:

  • - Type 2 diabetes patients are at "an increased risk of developing cancers of the liver, pancreas, colon and bladder," compared to the general population.
  • - Glucocorticoids and chemotherapy could hasten the onset of diabetes in some patients who are already vulnerable to the disease.
  • - The onset of Type 2 diabetes can also make a patient vulnerable to cancer through "chronically high insulin levels and high blood sugar" since insulin spurs cell growth, and cancer cells use glucose to a much greater degree than other nutrients.
  • - As biological links begin to grow between the two diseases, so too are the behavioral links: Poor diet, lack of physical activity, and smoking.

Obesity and old age linked to both diabetes and cancer

The blog also notes that obesity and advanced age are links between the two diseases, but these are extraordinarily general, and while it is understood why getting older increases one's risk of developing cancer, it still remains largely a mystery why obesity does the same.

Advice for those fighting both diseases

The best advice the blog offers is getting a certified diabetes educator on one's cancer treatment team. Having spoken to a number of certified oncology nutritionists in the past about this topic, I would argue that they would be just as effective as diabetes educators.

Source: New York Times

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