Is there a link between diabetes and breast cancer in postmenopausal women?

by Mark Benson on September 16, 2012

Is there a link between diabetes and breast cancer in postmenopausal women?

As scientists continue to undertake a number of very different and very in-depth research studies into diabetes it is becoming more apparent that this condition is more complicated than many people had assumed. The International Prevention Research Institute recently undertook a study of diabetes and a possible connection between with breast cancer in postmenopausal women, the results of which will probably surprise many people.

The basis of the study

Historically scientist would have needed to undertake a new study in order to look into any links between the likes of breast cancer and diabetes but such is the depth of information available from previous studies that this is now not the case. Therefore the International Prevention Research Institute was able to use data from 40 separate studies to look at the potential link between breast cancer and diabetes. These 40 studies themselves took in 56,000 women suffering from diabetes type II with very in-depth questions creating very in-depth data.

The results of the study

The basic results of the study suggest that postmenopausal women who have type II diabetes were found to have a 27% greater risk of developing breast cancer in the future. This is a massive increase in the risk associated with breast cancer and will obviously concern many people especially those who have type II diabetes. The study was published in the British Journal of Cancer and is therefore open to both professional and public scrutiny with the International Prevention Research Institute more than happy to discuss these findings in more detail.

One obvious factor which will probably spring to mind is obesity and the fact that weight gain is associated with both breast cancer and diabetes type II. Scientist will need to delve deeper into this particular matter but it does seem as there is a direct link between type II diabetes and breast cancer – aside from the weight factor.

What about type I diabetes?

Interestingly scientists were unable to find any direct link to breast cancer when specifically looking at premenopausal women or those with type I diabetes. There is some debate as to whether type II diabetes is having an unknown impact upon hormone levels and hormonal activity in postmenopausal women which is perhaps not relevant to premenopausal women or those with type I diabetes. However, at this moment in time scientist or unable to give any exact reason why there is such a difference and indeed why it is that type II diabetes, which itself is often associated with obesity, is taking centre stage.

While type I diabetes and type II diabetes are very different you could possibly have been forgiven for assuming that if type II diabetes has a link to breast cancer in postmenopausal women then why not type I diabetes?

BMI

Body mass index is something which has been discussed at great length by scientist looking at both breast cancer and diabetes in the past. Many people have been advised to reduce their bodyweight for the good of their general health and indeed to avoid potentially developing breast cancer and type II diabetes in the future. Whether it is simply the fact that those suffering from obesity are working their bodies too hard or it is a more complicated train of events is something which has been puzzling many researchers for some time now.

Slowly but surely the number of medical conditions associated with obesity continues to grow. Breast cancer, diabetes type II and an array of other conditions are now directly linked to an individual’s waist size and their body mass index. So whether or not you feel that you are potentially at risk of developing type II diabetes in the future, because of a weight issues, or indeed you feel that your health would benefit, perhaps now is the time to look at your dietary requirements and your exercise regime?

Unknown factors

The information available from the 40 studies which were accumulated to assess the potential link between type II diabetes and breast cancer was immense. It allowed researchers to look at many different areas of everyday life, dietary habits, exercise habits and indeed any medical conditions which developed in the future. However, despite the fact that this information has allowed researchers to provide a direct link between various medical conditions it is still unknown why these specific links exist.

If you take a look at the latest research notes into diabetes and the latest research studies you may well be mistaken for thinking things are becoming more complicated with less understanding. The reality is that bit by bit scientists are unravelling the very complex nature of diabetes, and especially diabetes type II, and all of the “unknown factors” which have come to light will at some point be unscrambled.

Is exercise the key?

It is becoming more evident that exercise is the key to a better standard of living and better health in later years. It is known to improve the strength of your body, the strength of your immune system and your ability to fight off a variety of different medical conditions which seem to be more prevalent in the older generation. We are not suggesting running marathons or taking part in bike rides across the UK but a general increase in your daily exercise regime and a willingness to look after your body and your health will certainly pay dividends in the future.

Conclusion

This link between postmenopausal women who have type II diabetes and breast cancer, where the risk factor increases by 27%, is obviously a major concern as researchers are unclear why this specific link is in place. It will give researchers more subjects to review, more links to scrutinise and in the end they will find the reasons why postmenopausal women are more susceptible to breast cancer if they have type II diabetes.

Researchers are literally saving lives, they are making people more aware of the potential risks and rather than look on these research studies as potential minefields, perhaps we should use them as some form of alarm system for our own future well-being?


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com 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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