A new study has provided the first explanation of why people with obesity and type 2 diabetes are more at risk of pancreatic cancer, with scientists linking high insulin levels to the development of this type of cancer.

The team from the University of British Columbia says it highlights how crucial it is that insulin levels are kept within a healthy range and says the findings could have implications for other cancers linked to obesity and diabetes.

The scientists found that raised insulin levels lead to pancreatic acinar cells, which produce digestive juices, being overstimulated.

This in turn triggers inflammation which turns the cells in precancerous ones.

Co-senior author Dr James Johnson, a professor in the department of cellular and physiological sciences, said: “Alongside the rapid increase in both obesity and type 2 diabetes, we’re seeing an alarming rise in pancreatic cancer rates.

“These findings help us understand how this is happening, and highlights the importance of keeping insulin levels within a healthy range, which can be accomplished with diet, exercise, and in some cases medications.”

Co-senior author Dr Janel Kopp, assistant professor in the department of cellular and physiological sciences, said: “We hope this work will change clinical practice and help advance lifestyle interventions that can lower the risk of pancreatic cancer in the general population.

“This research could also pave the way for targeted therapies that modulate insulin receptors to prevent or slow the progression of pancreatic cancer.”

The study looked at the most common and aggressive types of pancreatic cancer, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), which has a five-year survival rate of less than 10%.

This type of pancreatic cancer is set to be the second leading cause of cancer deaths by 2030.

The research team has started a new trial involving people with PDAC to help them control their blood sugar and insulin levels.

Dr Johnson added: “Colleagues in Toronto have shown similar connections between insulin and breast cancer. In the future, we hope to determine whether and how excess insulin might contribute to other types of obesity- and diabetes-driven cancers.”

Read the full study in Cell Metabolism.

Get our free newsletters

Stay up to date with the latest news, research and breakthroughs.

You May Also Like

Coronavirus: UK instructed to stay at home this weekend

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that staying at home this weekend…

Conversation about doctors’ appointments occurring virtually rumbles on

More than half of GP appointments are still being delivered remotely in…

Type 2 diabetes found to be a ‘significant risk factor’ among stroke victims

More evidence has been published which supports that diabetes is a “significant…