Diabetes Correlated with Better Lung Cancer Survival Rates

A diagnosis of diabetes has always been bad news, the disease bringing with it not only the need for drastic lifestyle changes but also the threat of deadly side effects like heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.  That is, unless you are also diagnosed with lung cancer, when having diabetes as well may be a blessing in disguise, according to results from a recent study.

Norwegian scientists found diabetic patients diagnosed with lung cancer had twice the survival rate of those who had lung cancer but did not have diabetes – and no one yet knows why.

Around 140,000 people use diabetes medications inNorwaytoday, out of a population of less than five million, but health authorities do not have hard figures for the total number of diabetics in the country.  As with almost all countries in the world, the numbers of diabetics are rising inNorwayas unhealthy eating habits become more widespread.  Yet Norwegians generally have a healthier lifestyle, with a high consumption of fresh fish and very little processed foods.  Food is expensive inNorway, and residents eat a lot of hunted game, which has lower fat and cholesterol levels than farmed meat.  They also tend to drink less alcohol, which is also high priced there. However, they do eat a great deal of fried dough and pastry products such as donuts and fried noodles.

Scientists from two Norwegian universities, Trondheimand the Universityof Scienceand Technology, carried out the study, which is due to appear in the November edition of the journal Thoracic Oncology.  They examined data from 1,677 lung cancer patients from three data banks, 77 of whom were also diabetics, looking at the survival rates at one year, two years, and three years after diagnosis.

The results were astonishing: diabetic patients survived their lung cancer almost twice as well as lung cancer sufferers without diabetes, rising to three times as well at three years.  They were also less likely to have metastasis, or spreading of the cancer to other parts of the body.

The researchers looked at the results in depth, adjusting for the stages of the disease, as patients tend to die not from the primary cancer but from the secondary tumors.  However, they found that diabetes itself seemed to be the reason these patients were less likely to die.

The study did not include scientific testing and did not come up with any reasons for the better survival rate of diabetics with lung cancer over patients who were not diabetic.  Nor did they know why diabetes apparently discourages metastatic spread of cancer to other parts.  The team has called for more in-depth investigation of this phenomenon, and has warned that diabetic medication should not be withheld because of these findings.

Although the research was carried out in Norway, it has huge relevance to Americans of both sexes, more of whom die from lung cancer than from any other type.  The number of deaths expected from lung cancer last year was 222,520, and the disease has overtaken breast cancer as the main cause of cancer death in women.  25.8 million Americans are diagnosed diabetics.

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