Johns Hopkins logoCancer patients who also suffer from diabetes seem to be at a greater risk of facing death in about a month from surgery, suggests a study by Johns Hopkins scientists. This suggestion comes in comparison to those patients who have cancer but do not suffer from diabetes. The study indicates that newly diagnosed cancer patients face 50 percent greater risk of death post surgery.

It is believed that approximately 20 million Americans i.e 7 percent of the population, suffer from diabetes. Patients who have been diagnosed with colorectal or esophageal tumors and suffer from Type 2 diabetes may face death earlier. The scientists are of the opinion that when a person is diagnosed with cancer, the focus shifts exclusively to cancer, and diabetes management gets overlooked.

Hsin-Chieh ‘Jessica’ Yeh, Ph.D., assistant professor of general internal medicine and epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine says that, “Diabetic patients, their oncologists and their surgeons should be aware of the increased risk when they have cancer surgery. Care of diabetes before, during and after surgery is very important. It should be part of the preoperative discussion.”

The findings of the study seem to have evolved from a systematic review and meta-analysis of 15 previously published medical studies that held information on diabetes status and mortality rate among patients following cancer surgery. The studies were conducted across 70 to 32,621 patients, with a median of 427 patients. However the scientists were not able to pinpoint the exact reason for an aggravated risk of death for cancer patients with diabetes after surgery.

The team thinks that one possible reason may be infection. Diabetes it seems is a well-established risk factor for infection, and other infection-related mortality in the general population. Moreover any surgery can increase the risk of infections. Another plausible factor may be cardiovascular compromise. Diabetes supposedly increases the risk of atherosclerosis and can predict heart attacks and deaths from other cardiovascular diseases pretty well.

Yeh comments that the study could not establish whether better diabetes management may lead to lowering the risk of death in cancer patients with diabetes after surgery. Hence, it seems important to study the topic further.

The study is to be published in the April issue of the journal Diabetes Care.