Diabetics with cancer ignore blood sugar

Nov. 29, 2012 at 7:50 PM
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CHICAGO, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- People with type 2 diabetes who are diagnosed with cancer tend to focus on cancer over diabetes, but diabetes is the more serious threat, U.S. researchers say.

Dr. June McKoy, director of geriatric oncology at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, said those with type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of cancer.

"People with diabetes hear cancer and they think that it is a death sentence, so who cares about diabetes at this point?" McKoy said in a statement. "But if they're not careful, it's the diabetes that will take them out of this world, not the cancer. That's why this education is so critical when cancer comes on board. Patients must take care of both illnesses."

The researchers examined five years of health records for 166,000 commercial insurance patients and 56,000 Medicare Advantage patients. They found 65 percent of cancer patients who received diabetes education had their hemoglobin a-1c tested at least twice, and 88 percent had it tested at least once over three years.

People with type 2 diabetes who received diabetes education after a cancer diagnosis were more likely to take care of their blood sugar. As a result, they had fewer visits to the emergency room, fewer hospital admissions, lower healthcare costs, and they tested their blood sugar levels more often than people who didn't have the education.

Type 2 diabetes dampens the immune system and hampers the body's ability to fight cancer, McKoy said.

The study was published in the journal Population Health Management.

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