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HomeHealth NewsBlood protein levels may indicate diabetes and cancer mortality risk.

Blood protein levels may indicate diabetes and cancer mortality risk.

Doctors have uncovered a blood protein that they hope could serve as an early warning sign for individuals at risk for diabetes and cancer-related death.

In the Malmo food and cancer study, researchers in Sweden and China analyzed 20 years of health records from over 4,500 middle-aged adults. Those with the highest levels of the circulating protein prostasin were nearly twice as likely to have diabetes as those with the lowest levels.

Some participants in the study already had diabetes, so researchers examined who among those without the disease was later diagnosed. People with the highest prostasin levels were 76 percent more likely to acquire diabetes than those with the lowest levels.

Blood protein levels may indicate diabetes and cancer mortality risk.
Blood protein levels may indicate diabetes and cancer mortality risk.

Dr. Xue Bao, the first author of the study from the Affiliated hospital and medical school of Nanjing University in China, stated that prostasin was a potential new “risk marker” for diabetes, as well as death from cancer, especially in those with high blood sugar.

Prostasin has multiple functions in the body, including regulating blood pressure and blood volume and inhibiting the growth of tumors fueled by high blood sugar. Although type 2 diabetes is known to increase the incidence of some malignancies, including pancreatic, liver, bowel, and endometrial tumors, the biochemical mechanisms behind this association are not well understood.

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Blood protein levels may indicate diabetes and cancer mortality risk.

After examining the relationship between prostasin and diabetes, the researchers examined if those with elevated levels of protein had an increased risk of cancer.

They explain in Diabetologia that people in the highest quartile for prostasin levels were 43% more likely to die from cancer than those in the lowest quartile.

According to the study, those with high levels of both prostasin and blood sugar had a considerably increased risk of dying from cancer. Cancer mortality risk increased by 24 percent in individuals without the high blood sugar and by 139 percent in those with high blood sugar for every doubling of prostasin levels. These folks should receive special consideration, the authors write.

Uncertainty exists as to whether a high prostasin level contributes to sickness or is just a biological marker that rises as the ailment progresses. The scientists propose that prostasin levels may increase to regulate excessive blood sugar levels, but are unable to prevent or repair the harm caused.

Prof. Gunnar Engstrom, the study’s principal author and a professor at Lund University, said, “The association between diabetes and cancer is poorly understood, but this protein may give a plausible link between the two diseases.”

“We must now determine if prostasin is a useful indicator of increased illness risk or whether it is causally related to these diseases,” Engstrom said.

“It may also be possible to identify those at elevated risk for diabetes and cancer and to provide them with preventative treatments.”

Because the findings are based on individuals from a single city, they may not apply to larger populations. The researchers also note that prostasin was tested using frozen blood collected at a single time point and that the study was unable to differentiate between various kinds of diabetes.

Diabetes UK’s Jessica Brown stated, “We know there is a link between diabetes and certain types of cancer, and this study reveals a specific protein called prostasin is linked to both disorders.

Scientists will be able to uncover strategies to protect individuals from diabetes and cancer if they have a better knowledge of the internal changes that put people at risk for these terrible disorders. However, there is still much to explore.

“Further research is required to determine whether prostasin plays a direct effect in the development of type 2 diabetes and worse cancer outcomes in individuals with high blood sugar.”

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