Is there a link between breast cancer and diabetes?

by Mark Benson on December 16, 2012

Is there a link between breast cancer and diabetes?

It seems that everywhere we turn today there is a link between diabetes and an array of other medical conditions which is somewhat confusing and in some cases concerning. The latest findings from a research programme undertaken by the Women’s College Hospital and Woman’s College Research Institute in Toronto seems to suggest that postmenopausal woman who survive breast cancer could be at added risk of developing diabetes in the future. Is this a serious consideration?

The research programme took into account data acquired between 1996 and 2008 to analyse the instances of diabetes amongst breast cancer survivors. The data involved 25,000 survivors of breast cancer aged 55 or over and compared them against a-based group of 125,000 similarly aged individuals.

The results

The results have been published in the India Times and show that around 10% of all women will at some point develop diabetes. This was used as the base figure to compare and contrast against those who have survived breast cancer. Those who had survived breast cancer had a 7% higher risk of developing diabetes in the first two years and a 21% higher risk 10 years after being diagnosed. However, interestingly it seems that those who undertook chemotherapy had a 24% higher chance of developing diabetes in the first two years although this falls to around 8% 10 years after the initial diagnosis.

These figures are compared to women without breast cancer and seem to indicate, at least on the surface, that there may be some relationship between breast cancer and diabetes.

Is there really a link between breast cancer and diabetes?

The relatively large-based groups used in this particular study would seem to suggest there is a link between breast cancer survivors and diabetes. Some doctors believe that there are similar risk factors common to both conditions, which is why there may be a link. It is unclear at this moment in time whether the specific link is genetically based or dietary based and more research will need to be done in the future.

Quote from : “My mum died of breast cancer, my father of bowel cancer, my paternal grandfather had a melanoma and liver cancer. If the met can offer me any protection from those I will gladly continue to take it. “

Even though this research report will likely concern some people who have gone through the trauma of breast cancer diagnosis, and lived to tell the tale, we may well be able to learn specific factors associated with breast cancer which may be associated with diabetes. This would allow researchers to potentially look at cures for both conditions at the same time and possibly join forces in some areas.


It is always very difficult when we get a snapshot of research programmes into diabetes and particular links with other medical conditions. Sometimes research companies will only issue data and comments which are relevant to diabetes, when in fact, as has happened in the past, perhaps this was not the main focus of the research itself. However, if this particular research report leads to further investigations into a potential link, and something is found, then it will have proven to be very useful indeed.

Hopefully this is an area of research which some groups will pick up in the future potentially to the benefit of breast cancer sufferers and diabetics.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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