Obesity and cancer?

It’s not obesity - Poor insulin control mean higher plasma glucose, greater cancer risk and lowered survival

According to the National Cancer Institute in America, obesity is associated with an increased risk of many types of cancers, but it is most strongly linked with cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, pancreatic cancer and post-menopausal breast cancer.   

Now nutritional epidemiologist Niyati Parekh of New York University Steinhardt thinks he has found out why. In a large population-based study Parekh found that disturbances in body insulin causes higher plasma glucose levels and these were directly linked to levels of, so called, ’obesity-related’ cancers.

“I knew there were a lot of underlying nutritional factors that could either prevent the recurrence of cancer or prevent cancer in general,” Parekh, an assistant professor within NYU Steinhardt’s department of nutrition, food studies and public health, told FoxNews.com. “Obesity is a very big problem in the United States...I wanted to know, what could the underlying mechanisms be in population studies?”

For her research, Parekh utilised data from the Framingham Heart Study, a 60-year research study funded by the National Institutes of Health.  Parekh analysed a generation of approximately 4,600 participants, examining data in regards to their diets, medical issues, blood and physical history.

Glucose fuelling cancer

Through in-depth analysis of the study cohort, Parekh found an increased risk of obesity-related cancers among people with disturbances in their body insulin and thus blood glucose levels, conditions primarily associated with diabetes and pre-diabetes. The risk was even greater for individuals who had longer exposure to these disturbances prior to their cancers. It has been known for some time that people with type-2 diabetes had a three fold risk of certain cancers. Poor glucose control had been previously suggested.

“Obese people are more likely to have (abnormal) insulin levels in their blood,” Parekh said. “Insulin is the gatekeeper for glucose entering the cells, so when insulin production is disrupted, higher values of glucose remain in the blood … And an increase of glucose in the blood creates an environment that is conducive for cancer cells to grow quickly.”

At CANCERactive we have repeatedly told you, high blood levels of glucose provides the fuel for cancer cells which need lots of it to grow. People with the highest levels of plasma glucose develop more cancers and Parekh has confirmed that.

Insulin may play a role too ...

In normal healthy people, the higher your plasma glucose, the higher your insulin levels. “Insulin dictates many signaling pathways, and it has the ability to turn on and turn off genes,” Parekh said. “The pathways are stimulated to encourage cell growth, proliferation, and (metastasis)."

With the discovery of this underlying biological mechanism, Parekh hopes doctors and patients with obesity-related cancers will understand that treating weight issues is just as important as treating the cancer itself.

The research was published in journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention and was funded by the National Cancer Society. (Source Fox News)

... but not if you have type-2 diabetes

Readers should also see the Cancer Watch piece on people with type-2 diabetes and cancer (November 2013). People with type-2 diabetes (and no Insulin strength) have a three fold higher risk of certain cancers. Obviously, their plasma glucose levels would be higher without glucose-lowering drugs. The drug Metformin has been shown to aid patient survival where the patient has both cancer and type-2 diabetes. The researchers concluded that this was because metformin reduced plasma glucose levels ...and plasma glucose fuels cancer cells.


July - Oct 2013 Cancer Watch
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