Diabetics Face Greater Risks After Cancer Surgery

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Diabetics who undergo cancer surgery are at a higher risk of dying from complications such as infections in the month following their operations according to a new study published in the April issue of the journal Diabetes Care.

Dr. Hsin-Cheih “Jessica” Yeh and colleagues from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine performed a meta-analysis of 15 previous trials that evaluated cancer in diabetic patients. Those who had been diagnosed with diabetes before their cancer surgery had a 50% higher chance of dying when compared with non-diabetic patients. The association was stronger for diabetics with colorectal or esophageal cancers.

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Dr. Yeh could not explain the exact cause of the increased risk, but the likely causes include the relationship between diabetes and a higher risk of developing infections. Elevated blood sugars are a known risk for mortality and complications after any type of surgery. Other factors include the greater incidence of heart disease risks and blood clots and kidney complications that are associated with high blood sugar.

Diabetes and cancer are two leading causes of death in the United States. Diabetes, which affects about 20 million Americans, is known to raise the incidence of some types of cancer, including breast, colorectal, endometrium, liver, and pancreas. In addition, lifestyle factors such as obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are risk factors for both conditions.

"Diabetes care should be part of cancer care," said Dr. Yeh. "All the attention was on the cancer treatment and cancer care, and sometimes we overlook or forget about diabetes. This study suggests that diabetes is important for mortality, so it should be taken care of on top of the cancer care."
Diabetic patients undergoing any type of surgery should aim to control blood sugars with medication, diet and exercise to reduce the risks of post-surgical complications.

Source reference:
Barone BB, et al "Postoperative Mortality in Cancer Patients With Preexisting Diabetes: Systematic review and meta-analysis" Diabetes Care 2010; 33: 931–939

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