You can’t always be there. But we can.
When you become a family caregiver to an older adult with diabetes, one of the things you’re likely to do is spend time learning about how diabetes affects them. One way that diabetes can impact your aging relative is by increasing their risk of certain kinds of cancer and the way cancer acts in the body.
Diabetes and Cancer Risk
People with diabetes are at twice the risk of developing pancreatic, liver, and endometrial cancers. They are also at between 20 and 50 percent higher risk of colorectal, bladder, and breast cancer. There are a couple of theories as to why diabetes may increase the risk of cancer. One is that diabetes and cancer share many of the same risk factors. Some of those risk factors are obesity, age, lack of exercise, and an unhealthy diet.
Another theory about how diabetes affects the chances of getting cancer is that some kinds of treatments used for diabetes may cause cancer risk to rise. There is some evidence that using insulin may increase cancer risk. However, the information isn’t definitive, so experts say patients should not make decisions about how their diabetes is treated based on possible cancer risks.
Diabetes and Metastasis
Recent studies have uncovered a link between diabetes and metastasis. Metastasis is when cancer spreads to other areas of the body. The culprit seems to be the way high blood sugar levels affect the structure of tissues. Elevated blood pressure levels change collagen structures in a manner that makes it easier for cancer to travel from one cell to the next.
The best way to reduce cancer risk in people who have diabetes is by managing their shared risk factors.
Some of the ways you can do this are:
Control Weight: Maintaining a healthy weight can make blood sugar easier to manage. According to the American Diabetes Association, losing as little as 7 percent of body weight can make a difference.
Dietary Changes: Eating a balanced, healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein will help with weight loss and is also essential to controlling blood sugar levels.
Exercise: Older adults should try to get in about 30 minutes of exercise on five days of the week. However, if 30 minutes in one block is too much for the senior, try breaking it up into 10-minute segments throughout the day.
Home health care can help your aging relative to both manage diabetes and decrease cancer risks. Home health care providers can prepare healthy, nutritious meals. Home health care providers can also encourage and support seniors as they try to lose weight. And, having a home health care provider can result in the older adult being more physically active because the provider can go for walks with them, do activities in the home, or drive them to exercise facilities for classes or to use the equipment.