A new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia School of Medicine has found a direct link between high insulin levels, which occur in patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes, and pancreatic cancer.

While obesity and type 2 diabetes were previously considered risk factors for pancreatic cancer, the exact mechanisms by which this occurred remained unclear.

The new study sheds light on the role of insulin and its receptors in this process

. The research, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, shows that excessive levels of insulin overstimulate pancreatic acellular cells, which produce digestive fluids. This overstimulation leads to inflammation that turns these cells into pre-cancerous ones.

The study focused on pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, the most common pancreatic cancer, which is particularly aggressive. The incidence of this pancreatic cancer is on the rise and by 2030 it is expected to become the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths.

“Along with the rapid increase in obesity and type 2 diabetes we are seeing an alarming increase in rates of pancreatic cancer,” said James Johnson, one of the study’s authors, a professor in the Department of Cell and Physiological Sciences and interim director of the Life Sciences Institute. at the University of British Columbia. “These findings help us understand how this happens and highlight the importance of keeping insulin levels in a healthy range, which can be achieved through diet, exercise and in some cases medication,” he adds.

The researchers point out that these findings may apply to other cancers associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes, where elevated insulin levels may also contribute to the onset of the disease.