Pancreatic cancer is a serious disease with more than 60,000 new cases each year in the U.S. and with expanded impact, that affects a substantial number of people. It’s the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths, and it’s predicted to become the second leading cause by 2030.
Unfortunately, most cases of pancreatic cancer are diagnosed after the disease has already spread, which makes treatment difficult and less effective. That’s why it’s so important to detect pancreatic cancer early.
Pancreatic Cancer and Diabetes
There are several things that increase your risk of pancreatic cancer, including genetics and lifestyle factors like smoking, being overweight, and not getting enough exercise. But there’s another risk factor that is often overlooked: type 2 diabetes. In fact, approximately 25% of patients with pancreatic cancer were diagnosed with diabetes between 6 to 36 months before the cancer was diagnosed. This means that if you have recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you could be at risk for pancreatic cancer.
Early detection of pancreatic cancer is critical for improving treatment outcomes. Patients diagnosed with early-stage disease have a much better chance of survival than those diagnosed at later stages. Unfortunately, over 50% of pancreatic cancer cases are diagnosed at later stages, which means that the prognosis is often poor. But if we can detect pancreatic cancer early, we can greatly improve the chances of survival.
Type 2 Diabetes as a Risk Factor for Pancreatic Cancer
Newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes is increasingly being recognized as an important risk factor for pancreatic cancer. In fact, individuals who are 50 years of age or older and have newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes are at high risk for pancreatic cancer. Compared to the general population, these individuals have a 6- to 8-fold higher risk of pancreatic cancer diagnosis within 3 years of meeting the criteria for newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes. That’s why it’s important to be aware and talk to your doctor about pancreatic cancer when you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the last 36 months.
While imaging testing modalities like CT scans and MRIs are not suitable for testing a large number of individuals and may lack access in some communities, there are other tests that can help detect pancreatic cancer early. One promising approach is analyzing cell-free DNA (cfDNA) from liquid biopsies. The most promising tests use cfDNA sequencing and epigenetic profiles, which can help identify pancreatic cancer in patients at high risk for the disease, such as those with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes, long before it has spread.
Pancreatic cancer is a serious disease with a poor prognosis if not detected early. Type 2 diabetes is an often-overlooked risk factor for pancreatic cancer, so if you have recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it’s important to talk to your doctor about pancreatic cancer and methods for early detection of the disease. Early detection is key to improving treatment outcomes and increasing the chances of survival.
Learn more about the Avantect Test, a blood test that detects epigenomic and genomic profiles of cell-free DNA (cfDNA) associated with pancreatic cancer.