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Diabetes and Cancer May Have A Biodirectional Link

Posted by Manuela Boyle on 2 July 2022
Diabetes and Cancer May Have A Biodirectional Link

A large Danish study published by the Molecular Metabolism in Cancer and Ageing Group at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, has found that cancer increases the risk of new-onset type-2 diabetes lung, pancreatic, breast, brain, urinary tract, or uterine cancers.

Type 2 diabetes, which typically develops after the age of 40, is usually due to a combination of the pancreas failing to produce enough of the hormone insulin, and the cells in the body failing to adequately respond to insulin. Since insulin is the key regulator of blood glucose (sugar), this causes a rise in the blood sugar levels.

The researchers analysed 112 million blood samples from 1.3 million Danes from 2000 to 2015. They found an increased risk of new-onset type 2 diabetes for all cancers, especially for pancreatic cancer. The mechanisms of the association between diabetes type 2 and pancreatic cancer include  hyperinsulinaemia, hyperglycemia, and chronic inflammation. Metformin and insulin are the main medical treatments for diabetes type-2. At the same time, studies have found that metformin decreases the risk of pancreatic cancer.


The best thing you can do if you have diabetes is make sure your blood sugar levels are under control and reduce risk of disease

Eat healthy

Some of the same dietary guidelines that help keep your diabetes under control can help lower your cancer risk. To manage your diabetes and lower your cancer risk, eat a plant-based diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains.  In addition, limit your intake of red meat and processed meat. To help keep your diabetes under control, be sure to have at least 14 grams of fibre per 1,000 calories. Whole grains, vegetables and fruits are great sources of fibre.A great tip is to reduce the size of the plate you use and look at what food groups are on your plate, food groups are:
Colourful vegetables

Find alternatives to sugary drinks such as fruit juice or fizzy drink. Try water and herbal teas either hot or cold, there are a variety of teas in the supermarket, our favourites are liquorice or fruit teas with a slice of lemon or orange, add berries frozen or fresh.


Exercise is an important part of both cancer prevention and diabetes management. The recommendations for both are the same. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. Set a goal to exercise five days a week. A half hour of brisk walking will be a great start.  You can even break it up into three 10-minute blocks of time throughout the day. Exercise along with a balanced diet will help keep your blood sugar under control as well as your weight and keep your cardiovascular system healthy. 

Watch your alcohol intake 

It’s best not to consume alcohol. Alcoholic beverages are often high in calories as well, so make sure these drinks aren’t affecting your waistline. Diabetes is a condition that should be taken seriously, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. 

Author:Manuela Boyle
Tags:NewsPrevention & RecoveryEvidence Based ResearchCancerDiabetes type 2


  • The Institute for Functional Medicine
  • Society for Integrative Oncology
  • Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia
  • Australian Traditional-Medicine Society
  • British Naturopathic Association