Cancer and Diabetes Link Mapped

by Mark Benson on November 16, 2011

Genes affect diabetes and cancer

Diabetes by itself is not fatal but its links to other complications such as heart disease and cancer is what many fear most. While previous studies found the increased risk of certain cancers because of diabetes, the reason for such correlation could not be found. Now, with research from Sweden’s Lund University, the molecular link between diabetes and certain cancers have been mapped.

Type 2 diabetes is not a one shot condition developed in one sitting. The individual is either predisposed to develop it or a lifestyle that leaves the pancreas and its beta cells overworked leading to loss of insulin levels. Instances of the overworked pancreas include high insulin levels because the individual is overweight. When the pancreas suddenly loses its ability over time, then type 2 diabetes occurs.

According to principal study author Yuedan Zhou, “We have worked with the most well-known risk gene for type 2 diabetes, a variant of the TCF gene and have studied its function in the beta cells.”

This risk variant of TCF is often found in one quarter of the population and over one third of the number of diabetics. Another risk gene that was utilized in the study is p53. Called the protector of the genome, this gene prevents the unbridled cell division that occurs in cancer cells. This gene has been linked to protect individuals against such potent cancers as colon and liver cancer, among others.

When the two genes work properly together, TCF protects against cellular death while p53 prevents unmitigated cell division. Here the connection was found between diabetes and cancer was found, as the high blood sugar levels activates the TCF gene which in turn prevents the proper functioning of the p53 gene to protect the beta cells from dying away.

The next step in the study is the mapping of the TCF gene to see how beta cell death can be prevented. The p53 gene is also being further studied to determine how its tumor preventing abilities are restored. The goal is to strengthen the protective abilities of TCF against beta cell deterioration in connection with high blood sugar work as medication for Type 2 diabetes or preventive medication against the development of diabetes.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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