Black and Hispanic Americans are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than their white counterparts. Now, recent findings published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggest that a diagnosis of adult-onset (type 2) diabetes later in life is associated with a three- to fourfold risk of developing pancreatic cancer among these populations, respectively, reports the University of Southern California (USC).

Pancreatic cancer begins in the tissues of the pancreas and typically spreads quickly to nearby organs. The illness, which can be cured when caught early, accounts for about 3 percent of all cancers in the United States and 7 percent of all cancer deaths. What’s more, African Americans have a higher risk of developing this particular cancer than other racial groups.

For the assessment, scientists at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California studied data that showed disease development among 49,000 African Americans and Latinos. Researchers noted that those diagnosed with diabetes between ages 65 and 85 were more likely than individuals without the condition to suffer from pancreatic cancer within three years. Specifically, African Americans and Latinos were three and four times more likely, respectively, to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer within the same period.

Scientists hypothesized that late-onset diabetes could be a useful marker for pancreatic cancer that could lead to the development of early screening methods for high-risk groups. (Currently, such screenings don’t exist.)

“Pancreatic cancer is a rare disease, but if you are diagnosed with late-onset diabetes, have a conversation with your clinician about your individual risk,” said V. Wendy Setiawan, PhD, an associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School and the study’s lead author. “Early intervention could improve survival.”

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