Diabetes Cancer Risk – DNA Damage

Home / blog / Diabetes Cancer Risk – DNA Damage
Diabetes Cancer Risk – DNA Damage

Diabetes Cancer Risk – DNA Damage

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when blood sugar is too high. Blood sugar is the main source of energy and we get it from the food we eat. Insulin is a hormone which is made by the pancreas and helps the sugar or glucose from food to get into our cells to be used as energy. If insulin is not produced sufficiently or if our body does not use the insulin properly then that person will be affected with diabetes. Generally, after we eat or drink, our body will use the sugar content from the food for energy in our cells. If diabetes is not treated a person may suffer from heart disease, stroke, kidney damage and nerve damage.

DNA damage is the changes that occur in the DNA structure that causes cellular injury and reduces the reproductive fitness of an organism. DNA damage can be caused by exposure to UV light, radiation and through chemicals present in the environment. Every cell in our body has a nucleus and inside every such nucleus, there are 23 pairs of chromosomes. The long strings in the nucleus are of DNA.

Many factors can cause diabetes which leads to DNA damage, like obesity, genetic factors and so on. DNA damage produces mutations and high glucose, high insulin and fatty acids can individually cause DNA damage. Thus this DNA damage is likely a biological link between diabetes and cancer.

The best way to escape is to keep one’s weight, especially at the waist under control to be as lean as possible without becoming underweight. Best is to eat food with fewer calories, like non-starchy vegetables, oils, nuts, and seeds which have more nutritional value. Limit red meat and avoid processed meat. Limit alcohol intake, physical exercise is a must.

There are three main types of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes: When the body produces very little or no insulin, is type 1 diabetes. This can occur in children or adolescents. This type is also known as “juvenile-onset.” It is generally treated with insulin injections. With this type of diabetes, patients have cervical and stomach cancers.

Type 2 diabetes: 90% of the adults are affected with this type.  It is known as “adult-onset.” The body does not make good use of the insulin that is produced or the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin the type 2 diabetes develops. People above 30 years of age or overweight patients are affected with type 2 diabetes. This type can be managed by eating healthy food, regular exercise, oral medicines and taking insulin whenever necessary. Genetics, overweight and environmental factors are the reasons for this type of diabetes. This type occurs with breast, endometrial, pancreatic, liver, kidney and colon cancers.

Gestational diabetes (GDM): Type 3. During pregnancy, when sugar levels are very high, both mother and child are affected by it.

Now cancer is increasing in diabetes patients. The number of people with diabetes was only about 171 million in the year 2000 but might increase to 366 million by the year 2030. This means that 26.9% are suffering from diabetes and about 60% have cancer.

How diabetes increases Cancer:

  • People who have type 2 diabetes are overweight, and the excess fat tissue produces higher levels of hormones which promotes chronic inflammation and leads to cancer.
  • It has been found that DNA is damaged and difficult to be cured when blood sugar levels are high leading to cancer risk. Essentially, most of the cancer patients have diabetes.
  • People with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing cancer of the Urinary tract, liver, pancreas, colon, biliary tract, endometrium and kidney.
  • Obesity, alcohol, tobacco, diet, less physical activity, age and sex are also the factors to have diabetes and develop cancer disease.
  • Overweight and obesity in diabetes patients is also a risk for developing cancer.

 Tips to manage diabetes during cancer treatment:

  1.  Managing diabetes during treatment is critical.
  2. The immune system must be strong in diabetic patients to fight cancer.
  3. Diabetes can delay cancer treatment and can also increase infection levels.
  4. One must educate oneself to prevent or increase diabetes during cancer treatment.
  5. Plan and balance your diet– During cancer treatment plan the diet, stay hydrated and supplement your regular meal with a healthy snack.
  6. Keep the blood sugar levels and blood pressure normal and prevent yourself from getting infected with any other viruses.
  7. Eat a balanced diet of fat, proteins and carbohydrates.
  8. Regular exercise is also needed to increase the functioning of the cells to absorb glucose and process it well. 
  9. Avoid smoking and consuming more alcohol.
  10. While managing diabetes and cancer do not stress yourself. Express your feelings with others or join a support group, who are also undergoing the same dual diseases.


  • Some treatments fight one disease and increase the other- either diabetes or cancer.
  • Some forms of chemotherapy can get insulin resistance but bring symptoms of diabetes.
  • Immunotherapy may attack critical insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
  • Immunotherapy can save a life and diabetes can be treated later.
  • Radiation therapy and Chemotherapy helps.
  • Steroids are given with chemotherapy to lower nausea.
  • Insulin injections, hormonal injections or oral medication helps type 2 disease.
  • New targeted cancer therapies with fewer side effects can also help.

Diet for Diabetes and Cancer Patients:

Healthy eating can control, prevent and reverse diabetes and also helps from being affected with cancer. 

The best diet: 

  1. Belly fat must be reduced- women with 35 inches and men with 40 inches circumference must reduce it.
  2. Sugary foods like soda, coffee drinks, candy, doughnuts,  muffins must be reduced.
  3. Desserts with healthy ingredients can be eaten.
  4. Nuts, olive oil, fish oil, flax seeds or avocados can be eaten.
  5. Whole fruit and vegetables-raw vegetables can be eaten by diabetic patients but cancer patients need cooked vegetables.
  6. High-fibre cereals and whole grains bread.
  7. Fish and shellfish, organic chicken and turkey.
  8. Eggs, beans, low- fat dairy products and yoghurt without sweet content.
  9. Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes and carrots to be eaten.
  10. Citrus fruits, flaxseeds, spices, beans, nuts, garlic are also good.

Avoid eating fried foods, sweets, chips, sugar, white bread, pasta or rice, red meat, fat-free yoghurt. 

Regular exercise to manage your weight like-walking, swimming, biking, or any other exercise where you sweat less and can breathe sufficiently well. Consult your treating doctor or a nutritionist for a planned diet.

Awareness: Most of the youngsters are not aware that diabetes can lead to cancer. The best way to educate them is from a very young age by introducing lessons in the science textbooks, conducting seminars, through the media. Every section of society needs to be educated that proper eating habits and making a few changes in our lifestyle can help us to live healthily.