Doctors have identified a protein in the blood that they believe may serve as an early warning signal for patients at risk for diabetes and death from cancer.
Researchers in Sweden and China analyzed two decades of health records of more than 4,500 middle-aged adults on the Malmö diet and cancer research. They found that those with the highest levels of prostasin, a protein that circulates in the blood, were almost twice as likely to have diabetes than those with the lowest levels.
Some of those in the study already had diabetes, so the scientists looked at which of those without the disease was later diagnosed. People in the top quarter for prostasin levels were found to be 76% more likely to develop diabetes than people in the bottom quarter.
dr. Xue Bao, the lead author of the study at the affiliated hospital of Nanjing University Medical School in China, said prostasin is a potential new “risk marker” for diabetes, as well as cancer death, especially in people with high blood pressure. blood sugar.
Prostasin plays several roles in the body, such as regulating blood pressure and blood volume, and it also suppresses the growth of tumors fueled by high blood sugar. While type 2 diabetes is known to increase the risk of certain cancers, including pancreatic, liver, colon and endometrial tumors, the biological mechanisms are far from clear.
After examining the link between prostasin and diabetes, the researchers looked at whether people high in protein had a greater risk of cancer.
In Diabetologia, they describe how those in the top quarter for prostasin levels were 43% more likely to die from cancer than those in the bottom quarter.
Participants with high levels of both prostasin and blood sugar had a significantly higher risk of dying from cancer, according to the study. For every doubling of prostasin concentration, the risk of death from cancer increased by 24% in people without high blood sugar and by 139% in people with high blood sugar. “Particular attention should be paid to these individuals,” the authors write.
It is unclear whether high prostasin levels play a role in disease or is just a biological marker that increases as the condition progresses. One possibility, the authors suggest, is that prostasin levels rise in an attempt to suppress high blood sugar levels, but are unable to stop or reverse the damage done.
“The relationship between diabetes and cancer is poorly understood and this protein could provide a possible shared link between the two conditions,” said Prof. Gunnar Engström, a senior author of the study at Lund University.
“We now need to investigate to what extent prostasin is causally related to these diseases or whether it is a valuable marker of increased disease risk,” Engström added.
“It may also be possible to identify individuals at increased risk for diabetes and cancer and offer preventive measures.”
Because the findings come from people in one city, they may not apply to larger populations. The researchers also point out that prostasin was measured from frozen blood taken at only one time point and the study was unable to distinguish between different types of diabetes.
Jessica Brown, of Diabetes UK, said: “We know there is a link between diabetes and some cancers, and this study suggests that levels of a particular protein called prostasin are linked to both conditions.
“By better understanding the changes in the body that can put people at risk for diabetes and cancer, scientists can find ways to protect people from these serious conditions, but there is still much to discover.
“We need further research to find out whether prostasin plays a direct role in the development of type 2 diabetes and worse cancer outcomes in people with high blood sugar.”