Diabetes and Cancer A Bad Combination

Written by Vince Faust

We have all heard the term “secondary conditions”. Secondary conditions put you at risk for more diseases then Covid-19. Secondary conditions also affect your chance of surviving breast cancer. Diabetes can be a secondary condition. Diabetes is one of the most common chronic conditions worldwide and breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer in women worldwide.

Diabetes is a medical condition that causes an increase in your blood glucose levels. If you have a fasting blood glucose level of 126 mg/dL or higher or an oral glucose tolerance test of 200 mg/dL or higher you have diabetes. Cancer is a medical condition that is a result of the excessive growth of unhealthy tissue. These abnormal cells grow out of control and ignore your body’s signals to stop dividing and die.

Six of seven studies found preexisting diabetes was associated with a risk of death from breast cancer. These studies showed that breast cancer patients with diabetes had a 50% higher risk of dying from breast cancer than patients without diabetes. We see the correlation between diabetes and cancer but we still don’t understand the reason for the increased risk of death. 

One study found that women with type 2 diabetes tended to have their breast cancer diagnosed later than those without diabetes. Another study found that women with pre-existing diabetes were sicker overall than those without diabetes. This tends to make them less able to handle the chemotherapy drugs or it may prompt doctors to treat their cancer less aggressively because of concerns about their overall health. Poorly controlled blood sugar levels can lead to short-term complications that can delay cancer treatment. There could also be a biological cause for the increased mortality risk. High levels of insulin have been found to stimulate tumor growth. Prior research also showed that diabetics were at a higher risk for developing breast cancer.

Women should try to maintain a body mass index around 25. Good nutrition and exercise are the only ways to achieve that body mass index level. This will help to prevent diabetes and reduce your cancer risk. Women that already have diabetes should make sure they control it. 

While there is no cure for diabetes, it can be controlled. Most type 2 diabetes con not only be controlled, it can be prevented and reversed. There are a number of areas that are under your control. These control factors include nutrition, fitness, sleep, stress, medical care, smoking and your environment. Educating yourself about diabetes and your control factors are necessary to better control your diabetes.

Exercise is beneficial for everyone. But people with diabetes will benefit from exercise even more if it includes enough of a challenge. Researchers found that exercise improves the health of people with Type 2 Diabetes. A complete workout should include exercises for each body part. This will include the chest, shoulders, triceps, back, biceps, forearm, thighs, calves and your abdominals (midsection). Start with 2 to 3 different exercises for each body part. Gradually work up to 8-12 repetitions for each exercise. Do each exercise 1-3 times to start. If you can do more than 12 repetitions for a set the weight is too light. If you can’t do at least 8 repetitions for a set the weight is too heavy. 

You’ll also need to do an aerobic workout. Aerobics works your heart, lungs, circulatory system and helps burn body fat. The word aerobic means oxygen. Oxygen is used to produce energy during aerobic activities. To do this the body has to be in continuous motion for more than 15 minutes. Aerobic exercise will help increase cardiovascular endurance by working the heart, lungs and circulatory system. Vigorous walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, cross country skiing, skipping rope, stair climbing, step aerobics and aerobic dance can be used for aerobic conditioning.

A few more steps you can take to prevent and control diabetes:

… Smokers should stop smoking – 1200 Americans died yesterday and another 1200 will die today from smoke related illnesses. You’ve seen the AD on TV “There are no safe levels for cigarettes”. Smoking will raise your risk for diabetes.

… Limit your exposure to secondhand smoke – ETS (environmental tobacco smoke) contains over 4,000 chemical compounds. More than 60 of these are known to cause cancer. Some of the toxins or irritants in secondhand smoke include carbon monoxide, nicotine, hydrogen cyanide, ammonia, formaldehyde and sulfur dioxide. Carcinogens in ETS include benzene, aromatic amines (especially carcinogens such as 2-naphthylamine and 4-aminobiphenyl), vinyl chloride, arsenic, nitrosamines and cadmium. The greater your exposure to ETS, the greater your level of these harmful compounds in your body. Second-hand smoke is the third leading preventable cause of death nationally.

… Get 8 hours of sleep every night – Get less sleep than what you need and you’ll find yourself stressed more often and you’ll get sick more often. Lack of sleep is also a risk factor for diabetes. To find out what you need, keep a diary of your sleeping habits. Record the time you go to bed, the time you wake-up, the total hours you sleep, your mental and physical state during the day; any naps and what you ate or drank before bed. After a few weeks, review your diary. You should be able to get a good idea of what helps or hinders you from getting the sleep you need. 

… Reduce stress and develop good coping skills – Other ways of dealing with stress include changing or improving personal character traits. These can include behavior changes such as assertiveness training, self esteem enhancement, being flexible, improving organizational skills and time management.

Both the oncologist and the primary care physician should make sure they are coordinating your care.

Vince Faust