After reviewing the results, they found that about 16,000 of the subjects had developed adult-onset diabetes mellitus, also known as Type 2 diabetes, and 400 had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer during the two-decade period.
Upon further examination, they discovered that people who were diagnosed with Type II diabetes between the ages of 65 and 85 were more likely to develop pancreatic cancer within three years compared to those without diabetes.
In fact, Latinos were four times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer after developing early onset diabetes, and African-Americans were three times as likely.
"What we found is that, yes, diabetes is associated with pancreatic cancer in African-Americans and Latinos, but we also discovered that there is a different type of diabetes here, a late-onset diabetes that's associated with developing pancreatic cancer within 36 months," Setiawan explained. "The evidence suggests that late-onset diabetes may be an early sign of pancreatic cancer."
While the scientists are still unclear about the factors that link diabetes with pancreatic cancer, they did reveal that there was no association between breast, prostate or colorectal cancer and late on-set diabetes.
They now hope to continue their investigations and believe their findings can help detect pancreatic cancer early, especially among high-risk groups.
"Pancreatic cancer is a rare disease, but if you are diagnosed with late-onset diabetes, have a conversation with your clinician about your individual risk," Setiawan said. "Early intervention could improve survival."