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Linking Insulin Resistance to Pancreatic Cancer: Understanding the Risks and Prevention Strategies

Sunday, December 31st 2023 10:00am 2 min read
Dr. Jessica Peatross dr.jess.md @drjessmd

Hospitalist & top functional MD who gets to the root cause. Stealth infection & environmental toxicity keynote speaker.

Insulin resistance, marked by the body’s inefficient use of insulin, may be a stealthy predator targeting the pancreas. This condition, often linked to poor diet and obesity, could trigger the transformation of normal cells into potential cancerous threats. Emerging research indicates a correlation between high insulin levels and the onset of pancreatic cancer, which ranks as the third most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S.

The University of British Columbia (UBC) recently published a study in Cell Metabolism explaining this link. The study shows that excessive insulin can overactivate pancreatic cells responsible for producing digestive enzymes, leading to inflammation and a shift towards a precancerous state. James Johnson and Janel Kopp, UBC researchers, stress the significance of their findings, especially for individuals at heightened risk for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. They emphasize that elevated insulin levels, stemming from poor dietary habits and obesity, are likely contributors to this increased cancer risk. Reducing insulin levels through medication, diet, or exercise might be a viable preventive strategy against pancreatic cancer.

Insulin plays a pivotal role in the early stages of pancreatic cancer through the insulin receptor’s critical function in managing digestive enzyme production and inflammation in the pancreas. An urgent question is how to leverage this knowledge to diminish pancreatic cancer risk in individuals with high insulin levels.

Hyperinsulinemia, a condition of abnormally high insulin levels, is a byproduct of insulin resistance, where the body’s cells, particularly those in muscles, fat, and liver, become less responsive to insulin. This condition not only affects pancreatic cancer but is also linked to colorectal, breast, endometrial, liver, ovarian, and gastric cancers. This may be due to insulin metabolism issues as potential impediments to cancer treatment. Given the global increase in obesity and diabetes and hyperinsulinemia’s potential role in hindering cancer treatments, understanding insulin’s role in cancer progression is crucial.

Cancer cells predominantly use glucose for energy and struggle to metabolize fats. Consequently, a diet low in glucose can help in starving cancer cells. High blood sugar levels from insulin resistance further promote cancer cell growth. Recent studies suggest that diabetes medications like metformin, which lower blood sugar levels, might also combat cancer by boosting insulin sensitivity and reducing glucose production in the liver.

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