High Glucose and Cancer. How are they connected?
Hyperglycemia is, unfortunately, often neglected in cancer patients. But high glucose levels and cancer are a very risky combination where the former in most cases supports and promotes the latter. In most simple words, cancer feeds on blood sugar and does so more efficiently and aggressively than normal body cells. Scientifilally speaking, high blood glucose contribues to the proliferation of cancer cells. Cancer cells grow abnormally because the mechanisms restricting division and growth, like the touching neighbouring cells which is typical for normal cells, is broken.
Is high glucose or diabetes a sign of cancer ?
Having high glucose all by itself does not mean that you have cancer, although numerous studies show higher cancer incidence in patients with type 2 diabetes. However, it means that you have a greater chance to develop cancer and that your cancer will most likely be more difficult to treat than in patients with normal sugar levels.
High glucose and diabetes 2 are associated with various types of cancer: breast, lung, colon. Liver cancer and pancreatic cancer show the strongest association with DM2. However, this association does not mean that hyperglycemia or even diabets drirectly cause cancer but often quite the the opposite, may be the result of malignancies in these organs which means that your liver and pancreas are no longer functioning properly, and their role in maintaining proper blood sugar levels in crucial.
The pancreas is the organ that produces insulin which your organs need in order to properly absorb and use glucose molecules for energy and maintain your blood sugar levels stable. When cancer develops in the pancreas, it damages the tissue. As a result, either not enough insulin is produced or it cannot be properly released in your blood stream.
Liver stores excess sugar in your blood in the form of glycogen ....
Does high glucose cause cancer?
This is not quite correct. Cancer is caused by mutations in your cells which have not been timely detected by your immune system as 'abnormal' and killed. This process or destroying defective cells is called apoptosis. Your immune system is involved in fighting cancer thoughout your entire lifespan becuase defective cells are constantly appearing in your body as a result of DNA copying mistakes (mutations) or damage done to your cells DNA, for instance, by sun radiation. As a person grows older these mistakes become more and more frequent and in the old age the immume system becomes less active. Also, with age it is getting more and more difficult to maintain homeostasis. High glucose levels is a part of homeostasis disbalance. As a result of all these changes, it is getting more and more difficult for your immine system to fix these mistakes. You immune system may also be be distracted on auto-immune reactions or even be suppressed by immune-suppressing mediations and so become less effective againts cancer.
High glucose interferes in the process of cancer cell apoptosis on multiple levels:
- It stumulates the fast growth of such cells as they absorb glucose faster than normal cells and grow faster.
- It inhibits apoptosis of cancer cells making the works of your immune system less effective.
- According to numerous studies, high glucose levels are now also linked to inflamatory diseases causing system inflammation in your body and so impair the work of your immune system by excess load.
As a consequence, with the same number of newly produced cancer cells, the person with high gluose levels has a greater chance of developing cancer than a person with normal glucose levels. This illustrates the importance on homeostasis ones again.
Cancer cells are glucose-hungry.
There are 2 great 'real life' examples that demonstrate that. The ones you can observe with a naked eye.
Example 1: PET or positron emission tomography
PET or positron emission tomography is a great example. This type tomography is actually based on the ability of cancer cells to use more energy and so absorb glucose from your blood stream at faster rates than healthy cells do.
Before the scan the patient gets an injection of a small amount of a radioactive sugar (fluorodeoxyglucose-18). This substance is often referred to as tracer. Then the scanner shows the areas with the highest concentration of the radioactive tracer is in your body. This type of tomography does not provide such a high-definitoin picture as a normal CT does but it is able to spot even smallest tumors that might remain unnoticed on an ordinary CT.
Example 2: hair loss after chemotherapy
You know that some chemotherapy medications cause hair loss. This side effect is actually based on the main working principle of those medications: selectively targeting fast-growing cells. Both hair and many cancer cell types fall within this category. Such cells need more energy and absorb glucose faster that other cells
Normalizing your glucose levels gives you a better chance of combatting cancer!