High Blood Sugar and Prostate Cancer

Published in Discovery - Winter 2018

If you have pre-diabetes or diabetes, here’s another reason to try to get your blood sugar under control: if you get prostate cancer, you are more likely to die from it.

“We knew from previous studies that men who have diabetes have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer, but that they may have a higher risk of dying from prostate cancer if they do develop it,” says Corinne Joshu, Ph.D., M.P.H., senior author of the study. With colleagues Michael Marrone, M.P.H., and Elizabeth Platz, Sc.D., M.P.H., she aimed to understand more about the connections between blood sugar and prostate cancer.

In an analysis of data from more than 5,000 cancer-free men in the Atherosclerosis in Communities study, they studied three markers for blood sugar in men who did not have diagnosed diabetes: “fasting glucose, hemoglobin A1c, and glycated albumin,” Joshu explains, and worked “to better classify low, normal, and high blood sugar.”

Men who were classified with high glycemia (blood sugar) on all three markers had “almost a five times greater risk of dying from prostate cancer,” compared to men who were normal on all three markers. Men with a diabetes diagnosis appeared to have a three-fold or greater risk of dying of prostate cancer – and so did men who did not have diabetes who had low blood sugar.

“These patterns were consistent in black men and white men,” notes Joshu. “The results reinforce the importance of efforts to prevent the onset of diabetes,” with weight loss, a healthy diet and exercise, “and to maintain good blood sugar control in men with diabetes – especially in black men, who suffer a disproportionate burden of prostate cancer, hyperglycemia, and diabetes in the U.S.”