Diabetes may either be a risk factor in, or a symptom of, pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is two times more likely to occur in people who have diabetes than in people who do not have diabetes. In pancreatic cancer patients who have had diabetes for less than five years it is unclear if the diabetes contributed to the cancer or if the precancerous cells caused the diabetes. Until recently no one in the world of medicine has laid the blame for the cancer at the feet of the treatment there of, except malpractice lawyers in the legal profession.

Also, continued research has shown that a recent onset of diabetes in people over 50, or a sudden change in blood sugar control in those who are already diabetic, may be a symptom of pancreatic cancer. As a result, a distinct over supply of ambulance chasing attorneys are now using these two facts to allegedly link the prescribing of oral hypoglycemic (I.e. Januvia, Byetta; pills used to treat diabetes) to the production of pancreatic cancer. In case you may have missed it, they have taken out ads on TV to promote their willingness to sue for damages on behalf of those unfortunate folks who have developed this dread disease.

In 1961, while serving as a rotating intern, an astute general surgeon gave me a “clinical pearl” by teaching me that a man with unexplained back pain and an elevated blood sugar might have pancreatic cancer. Those were the days before CT scans, MRIs, PET scans, laparoscopy, etc and one suspected of having CA was subjected to a large midline abdominal wall incision for confirmation and treatment, the procedure being known as an “exploratory laboratory.“ For all these years after, I have never forgotten that valuable caveat and used it to diagnose that dreaded, incurable disease; fortunately in later years utilizing the newer technologies.

A sulfonylurea compound, used as an oral hypoglycemic agent, was first instituted in Berlin, Germany in 1952 and later immigrated to the US. Repeatedly, through the years, there have been attempts to blame the development of pancreatic cancer on both insulin and oral agents. Instead of saying that A (diabetics are more prone to pancreatic cancer) or B (that new onset, untreated diabetes may be the first sign of pancreatic cancer) the attorneys are jumping to C; the docs and the drugs are causing pancreatic cancer. They are “jumping to conclusions” unwarranted by the facts. Their mercenary motives are blatantly obvious.