Clinical review 63: Diabetes and pancreatic cancer: clues to the early diagnosis of pancreatic malignancy

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1994 Nov;79(5):1223-31. doi: 10.1210/jcem.79.5.7962312.


Purpose: To review the relationship between pancreatic cancer and diabetes, particularly as this pertains to the early detection of pancreatic cancer.

Data sources: Studies published from 1985 to 1992 identified by computerized literature searches of Index Medicus and Medline and hand searches of referenced articles.

Study selection: Selected epidemiology studies were those exploring the relationship between diabetes and pancreatic cancer.

Data extraction: Data concerning the risk of developing pancreatic cancer given a history of diabetes was evaluated with particular attention given to the duration of diabetes before a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. The characteristics of diabetes presenting within the 2 yr before the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer were also investigated.

Results of data synthesis: Whereas diabetes is a risk factor for the development of pancreatic cancer, the diagnosis of a pancreatic tumor in some cases is preceded by a brief history of diabetes, which appears to be caused by the malignancy itself. This diabetes may be atypical with regard to a lack of family history of diabetes, absence of obesity, and a rapid progression to insulin dependence.

Conclusions: Recognition of atypical diabetes as an early manifestation of pancreatic cancer could lead to earlier diagnosis of tumors at a stage when they are still amenable to resection and cure.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Complications*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors