New Link to Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, Breast Cancer and Obesity in Women


A new study finds that high levels of the hormone neurotensin increase a woman’s risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, and possibly obesity as well.



As I discuss in my book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, both obesity and diabetes are associated with an increased risk of cancer.  Obesity, in particular, is a potent risk factor for breast cancer, and for recurrence of previously diagnosed breast cancer.  As I have noted recently, diabetes is also a known risk factor for breast cancer (Diabetes Significantly Increases Breast Cancer Risk).  Additionally, obesity is the single greatest risk factor for diabetes.

In view of the known associations between obesity, diabetes cardiovascular disease and cancer risk, a newly published prospective clinical research study from Sweden provides tantalizing evidence of at least one possible explanation for these associations.  In this study, 4,632 participants in the Malmö Diet and Cancer Study were followed between 1991 and 2009.  Upon entry into this prospective public health study, all participants underwent blood testing for proneurotensin, a precursor of the hormone neurotensin.  Neurotensin is most commonly found in the brain and the gastrointestinal tract, and its secretion is stimulated by food intake, and particularly by fat intake.  Neurotensin has many known physiological effects, including a reduction in appetite and food intake after meals.  Interestingly, neurotensin levels normally rise after consumption of a fatty meal, which is thought to result in a decreased appetite for more food, and reduced food intake.  However, in obese patients, neurotensin levels appear to actually decrease after consumption of a fatty meal, which suggests that an abnormal neurotensin response to food intake may play an important role in obesity.  Moreover, following obesity surgery, neurotensin levels have been observed to rise, in a normal fashion, following fatty meals.  Additionally, neurotensin has been observed to stimulate the growth of breast cancer tumors, while blocking neurotensin appears to reduce breast cancer tumor growth.  Finally, certain inherited variations of one of the receptors for neurotensin is known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, primarily by increasing levels of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” form of cholesterol).

The findings of this study were very intriguing.  Among patients with elevated levels of proneurotensin, diabetes was 28 percent more common, cardiovascular disease was 17 percent more common, and death due to cardiovascular disease was 29 percent more common.  Interestingly, the adverse health impact of high proneurotensin levels was significant only in women. Among women only, high levels of proneurotensin were associated with a 41 percent increase in the risk of diabetes, a 33 percent increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease, a 50 percent increase in the risk of death due to cardiovascular disease, a 44 percent increase in the risk of breast cancer, and a 13 percent overall increase in the risk of death due to any cause.

This study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

While this study cannot explain the actual mechanism(s) whereby increased levels of proneurotensin and neurotensin may lead to an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and breast cancer in women, it nonetheless suggests that these hormones, when elevated, should be considered as markers for an increased risk of these serious illnesses, at least in women.  Moreover, based upon our knowledge of the physiological effects of neurotensin on digestion and appetite control, and its abnormal secretion in obese women, it is possible that stimulating an increase in neurotensin levels may help to restore more normal appetite levels, decrease caloric intake, and improve weight loss in obese patients.

More research needs to be done in order to understand how proneurotensin and neurotensin play a role in the development of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.  In doing so, we may be able to open up exciting new opportunities to reduce the incidence and impact of these common causes of premature death, particularly among women.


A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race is now available in both printed and digital formats from all major bookstores.  Get your copy now, and begin living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle now!


Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1

At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.

Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  (More than 1.3 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious people who visited Weekly Health Update in 2011!)  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


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