Clues from Jerusalem
Sometimes medical clues come from unusual places or from distant decades. This time, the clues come from Jerusalem of the 1960s and 1970s and give us a thrilling lead on the mechanics of the link between pancreatic cancer and diabetes. This data was reviewed in a recent online open access journal known as BMC medicine.
The data suggests that women who have a history of gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of developing the devastating, often fatal cancer later on in life.
The research team for this study was drawn from scientists in both the United States and Israel and was led by M.C. Perrin. The researchers looked at data pertaining to 37,000 women who had babies in the city of Jerusalem between the years of 1964 and 1976. This data was culled from sections of the comprehensive Jerusalem Perinatal Study.
The Jerusalem birth records uncovered the fact that 410 women out of this number were found to have contracted gestational diabetes in one or more of their pregnancies. Five of this number went on to develop pancreatic cancer. The overall number of pancreatic cancer cases in participants stands at 54. None of the women who had type 1 diabetes at the time of delivery went on to develop the deadly cancer.
While it is known that women with gestational diabetes often develop type 2 diabetes mellitus, there is still much theorizing about what, if any, causal relationship exists between diabetes and pancreatic cancer. Patients who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are often found to have only just developed recent onset diabetes. Quite often it is found that when the pancreatic tumor is removed, the diabetes symptoms undergo a remarkable improvement.
Aside from these cases of recent onset diabetes as a firm link to pancreatic cancer, those patients who have suffered from diabetes for a longer term are also at risk of developing pancreatic cancer. This most recent study, however, shows a clear link to gestational diabetes being the riskiest type of diabetes in relation to the later development of pancreatic cancer some 14-35 years down the line.
Pancreatic cancer is considered to be a very lethal form of cancer because it often escapes diagnosis until it is in late stage development. This disease is the fourth most common type of death-causing cancer among women in the United States.