comscore Break the link between diabetes and cancer

Break the link between diabetes and cancer

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  • DENNIS ODA / 2016

    Jeff Shonka walks for exercise near Triangle Park (aka Fort Ruger Park) in Kahala. Multiple studies find that regular exercise can reduce glucose levels significantly, as well as the need for medications.

Diabetes. We know many of you get anxious about it because it can lead to heart attack, blindness, gastrointestinal problems, depression, kidney dysfunction and chronic neuropathy. We know you wish you didn’t have to deal with it. That may be why almost half of you fail to meet your blood sugar control goals, which could help you dodge those complications.

But Type 2 diabetes is a reality for 31 million U.S. citizens (over 7.2 million are not yet diagnosed!). There also are 84 million folks with prediabetes (which has its own serious health risks), and one-third of them will develop full-blown Type 2. If you’re in one of those groups, listen up! The way to check diabetes off your worry list is to face it down and beat it — and you can! Here’s a little fuel:

If dodging blindness, dementia, heart attack, stroke and nerve pain aren’t incentive enough to get you to make the lifestyle adjustments and take the medications that can prevent, control and even reverse Type 2 diabetes, a new study ups the ante. A global review by the George Institute for Global Health involving almost 20 million people found that having diabetes significantly raises the risk of developing cancer, and for women the increased risk is especially elevated.

Women with diabetes are 27 percent more likely to develop any form of cancer than women without diabetes; for men with diabetes the risk is 19 percent higher. In addition, compared to men with diabetes, women’s risk of kidney cancer is 11 percent higher, oral cancer is 13 percent higher, stomach cancer 14 percent higher and leukemia 15 percent higher.

Why are women more vulnerable? The researchers theorize it may be that women remain prediabetic with impaired glucose tolerance two years longer on average than men. Also, they’re often undertreated when first symptomatic, are less likely to receive intensive care and are not taking the same levels of medications as men.

And for both men and women, what is the connection between diabetes and cancer? Apparently, elevated blood glucose contributes to DNA damage and those genetic mutations fuel cancer. Yikes!

For prediabetes, lifestyle upgrades can reduce your risk of developing full-blown diabetes by 58 percent; medications are successful only about 31 percent of the time.

So, now’s the time to:

>> Aim to lose 7 percent of your body weight.

>> If you haven’t been exercising regularly, walk 30 minutes a day now (it cuts your risk of developing full-blown diabetes by 30 percent) and work up to 10,000 steps a day (that’s the magic number that breaks down insulin resistance in leg muscles). If you already have diabetes, multiple studies find that regular exercise can reduce glucose levels significantly, as well as the need for medications.

>> Don’t stop with walking. Do strength/muscle building exercises two days a week for 20-30 minutes.

>> Turn off the tube, or watch TV while on a treadmill or stationary bicycle. Sitting and watching two hours of television daily raises your risk of developing diabetes by 23 percent.

>> Eat seven to nine servings of veggies and fruit daily; ditch all red and processed meats and added sugars and eliminate exposure to plastics made with bisphenol A and bisphenol S (don’t use containers marked with the recycle numbers 1, 3, 6 or 7).

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to

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