Screening diabetics could spot pancreatic cancer early, say US researchers

In collaboration with the Press Association

A new US study of people with pancreatic cancer has found that 40 per cent of those taking part had been diagnosed with type-2 diabetes prior to being diagnosed with cancer.

Although the researchers suggest that the diabetes is caused by the cancer, rather than the other way around, the team propose that screening people diagnosed with diabetes might be an effective way to detect pancreatic cancer earlier.

Researchers at Mayo Clinic reviewed the medical records of 736 patients with pancreatic cancer and 1,875 healthy individuals whose medical records contained data on their fasting blood glucose levels, which is usually the first test done when checking for diabetes.

The team found that 40 per cent of pancreatic cancer patients had been diagnosed with diabetes, while just 20 per cent of cancer-free individuals had blood glucose levels in the diabetic range.

Lead author Dr Suresh Chari, a gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic, said: "Our previous studies have shown an association between recent diagnoses of diabetes and pancreatic cancer.

"We are now quite convinced that in most patients with pancreatic cancer the diabetes is caused by the cancer and not the other way around," she stressed.

"Our next step is to identify a biomarker for pancreatic cancer-induced diabetes in order to screen patients with new-onset diabetes for early pancreatic cancer and provide surgical treatment as quickly as possible."

The researchers are now carrying out clinical trials to see if a CT scan can be used to diagnose early pancreatic cancer in patients who are at high risk.