Type 2 Diabetes – The Liver Cancer and Diabetes Connection

Research over the past few years has demonstrated people who have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes are at a high risk for cancer of the liver. A study published in January 2013 in the British Journal of Cancer and a 2010 report from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, show much the same results.

The 2013 study, carried out by the National University of Singapore, included 63,257 middle-aged men and women in China. Over 14 years, 499 participants were diagnosed with liver cancer. Those who had Type 2 diabetes at the beginning of the study had more than twice as high a risk of developing liver cancer as nondiabetic individuals. Most of the diabetics who developed cancer of the liver did not have hepatitis, another risk factor for liver cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the United States, Type 2 diabetes is the most common risk factor for liver cancer among people living in the U.S. In 2010, the publication Benchmarks reported the results of a study by the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics. Researchers analyzed information from NCI’s database 5,607 people diagnosed with liver cancer. Type 2 diabetes was associated with 34 percent of cases.

Late in the course of liver cancer several signs and symptoms can be seen. Patients can suffer…

  • swelling of the whole abdomen or a painful swelling in the right upper part of the abdomen,
  • feelings of fullness after eating only a small amount,
  • loss of appetite,
  • nausea and vomiting, and
  • weight loss

are common. Weakness and tiredness can also be present. Patients can notice yellow skin and whites of their eyes, pale stools, and brown urine. Patients sometimes report fevers.

When liver cancer is suspected a blood test called alpha-fetoprotein can be performed. It is a nonspecific test that can tell if cancer is present somewhere in the abdomen, but falsely positive test results can be obtained in smokers and people with lung disease. Ultrasound is good for finding masses in the liver. If a mass is found, a biopsy can give the final diagnosis. Once the diagnosis is made surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy are options for treating it.

One thing that makes liver cancer especially dangerous is in the early stages it has no signs or symptoms. That is why it is important to prevent it from starting…

  • eating a healthful vegan diet,
  • getting enough exercise, and
  • keeping your body weight normal

can go a long way toward prevention of a whole host of diseases, including Type 2 diabetes. Other preventive measures include not drinking or drinking only small amounts of alcohol, and avoiding hepatitis B and C.