Co-morbid Diabetes and Cancer: Differences by Patient Characteristics and Symptom Outcomes

More than 32 million Americans have diabetes and 1.8 million new cancer diagnoses are expected in 2020. Epidemiologically, a strong link exists between diabetes and several forms of cancer including pancreatic, colorectal, lung, and liver cancers. As a result of early cancer diagnosis and improved treatment modalities cancer survivors are living longer with other chronic diseases including diabetes. Since knowledge gaps exist regarding potential effects of having both diabetes and cancer, we examined demographic characteristics and Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale-revised scores of 306 adult palliative care patients with cancer, 42 of whom had diabetes. The mean age of those with and without diabetes did not differ significantly (67.3±5.4 vs. 66.3±7.8, respectively; p=.35). Among these 306 patients, the prevalence of diabetes was 16% among males versus 12% among females (p=.40); 20% among African Americans, 11% among non-Hispanic Whites, and 23% among other races (p=.04). Those with diabetes reported significantly lower pain (2.7±2.6) than those without diabetes (3.6±2.9, p=.05). However, there were no significant differences between those with and without diabetes in depression (2.3±2.6 vs. 2.1±2.6, p=.69) and well-being (3.2±2.6 vs. 3.6±2.5, p=.32). Prevalence differed significantly for patients with diabetes versus those without diabetes for pancreatic cancer (14% vs. 5%, p=.04) but not for lung (26% vs. 17%, p=.20), colorectal (10% vs. 5%, p=.29), or liver (7% vs. 2%, p=.08) cancers. Findings revealed few differences across demographic characteristics and pain, depression and well-being among palliative care patients with and without diabetes. Additional prospective research is needed to investigate the effects of comorbid diabetes and cancer in a larger sample of subjects with a focus on specific cancer subtypes.


L. Scarton: None. D.J. Wilkie: None. G. Fitchett: None. L. Emanuel: None. G. Handzo: None. Y. Yao: None. H.M. Chochinov: None.

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