Elevated levels of a specific protein appear to be linked to an increased risk of developing diabetes and dying from cancer, a new study finds.
High levels of prostasin -- mainly found in epithelial cells, which line the surfaces and organs of the body -- are associated with both diabetes and cancer, researchers report Aug. 4 in the journal Diabetologia.
For this study, researchers analyzed blood samples taken from nearly 4,700 middle-aged Swedish adults as part of a large study that's been running since 1993.
Prostasin helps regulate sodium balance, blood volume and blood pressure, researchers said in background notes. The protein is also associated with metabolism of blood glucose.
Over an average 22-year follow-up, participants with the highest levels of prostasin were 76% more likely to develop diabetes than those with the lowest levels, researchers found. Further, people with the highest prostasin blood levels are 43% more likely to die from cancer than those with the lowest levels.
For each doubling of prostasin concentrations in the blood, risk of cancer death increased by 139% among people with high blood sugar levels, the results showed.
For people without elevated blood glucose, each doubling of prostasin concentration increased cancer death risk by 24%.
"Prostasin is a new potential risk marker for the development of diabetes and for cancer mortality, especially in individuals with high blood glucose levels," said lead researcher Dr. Xue Bao, of the Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing University Medical School in China.
"It is easily accessible, which enhances its potential to serve as a warning marker in the future," Bao said in a journal news release.
Prostasin levels better predicted diabetes in younger participants, as well as those with lower blood glucose levels and better kidney function, researchers said. Elevated prostasin levels may compensate for the body's response to overly high blood sugar, but appears to be insufficient to stop or reverse worsening glucose control.
The American Diabetes Association has more about diabetes and cancer.
SOURCE: Diabetologia, news release, Aug. 4, 2022