How type 2 diabetes raises risk of cancer uncovered by researchers

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Swedish study uncovers diabetes cancer link
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Patients with diabetes are more prone to developing cancer, but until now researchers haven’t understood why it happens. Notably, rates of cancer and diabetes are widespread. Scientists from Lund University in Sweden have mapped gene activity that explains why type 2 diabetes raises the risk of cancer.

According to Yuedan Zhou, a doctoral student at the Lund University Diabetes Centre and principal author of the published study, “We have worked with the most well-known risk gene for type 2 diabetes, a variant of the TCF gene, and have studied its function in the beta cells.”

A variant of TCF is present in 25 percent of the population and in 31 percent of diabetics. The gene helps protect the cells in the pancreas from stress. If the gene fails, beta cells die and diabetes ensues.

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Gene variants also put people at risk for cancer. One such variant is in the P53 gene. When P53 isn’t functioning properly, cells can divide uncontrollably, which is what happens with cancer.

The Lund University researchers found the two genes work together. When the TCF gene is activated from high blood sugar levels, the action of P53 is inhibited to protect beta cells. P53 no longer protects the body from cancer.

The researchers are working on way to either strengthen the function of TCF against beta cell death that happens when the pancreas release insulin to control blood sugars. They also suggest that boosting the function of the P53 could keep people with diabetes protected from cancer.

The gene study explains how diabetes raises the risk of cancer at a molecular level.

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