Researcher Tim Byers from the University of Colorado Cancer Center described in a major symposium at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2015 results of a research study revealing the connection between diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.
“We tend to silo ourselves in our research, but there are a number of risk factors shared in these three diseases,” said Byers who is also the associate director at the CU Cancer Center’s for cancer prevention and control.
According to the World Cancer Research Foundation, obesity is a major cancer risk factor that is likely to cause almost 20 percent of cancers of the esophagus, breast, endometrium, colon, pancreas, kidney and gall bladder in the United States. Furthermore, obesity and being overweight contribute to cardiovascular and diabetes disease and are responsible for 58 percent of type 2 diabetes and 21 percent of ischemic heart disease.
“Obesity leads to a chronic inflammatory state and circulating growth factors that have adverse effects on the heart, and can also contribute to the development of cancer. But we tend to study these things in isolation, by disease and not by risk factor. The intention of this symposium is to plant a seed of thought that maybe, as cancer researchers, we should pay more attention to the subtleties of the epidemiology of other diseases,” explained Byers.
Shared risk factors for cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes include tobacco, physical activity, diet quality and alcohol use.
“I was recently talking to a cardiovascular disease epidemiologist about cytokines — small proteins that can make inflammation and are jacked up in obesity,” Byers explained regarding the fact that scientists tend to ignore useful information from outside their fields of knowledge. “It turns out that in cancer we had focused on one kind of cytokine and in cardiovascular disease, they had focused on another. There was no good reason for the difference — it’s just what was in the literature.”
Byers emphasized the importance of collaborating to share knowledge to better understand the way these factors work together. “Understanding the similarities and differences in how these risk factors create cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease could aid the ways we prevent all three diseases.”