cancer

Stronger links found between type 2 diabetes and cancer

by Barbara Hewitt on October 9, 2018

People with type 2 diabetes may face a higher risk of dying from cancer than those who do not have the long term health condition, according to new research.

The risk is particularly associated with obesity-related cancers such as bowel, kidney, and pancreas in men and women, and from the breast and endometrium cancer in women, according to the large observational study.

Doctor

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It also found that people with type 2 diabetes were at heightened risk of dying from non-obesity related cancers, suggesting that there might be non-obesity related mechanisms linking diabetes to cancer.

The findings of the study, involving almost 177,000 adults with type 2 diabetes and 853,000 matched controls, were unexpected, the authors told the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) annual meeting in Berlin.

While obesity is known to independently increase the risk of death from several cancers whether there is a link between elevated BMI and excess risk of developing obesity related cancers in people with type 2 diabetes is not well understood.

To provide more evidence, researchers from the University of Manchester in the UK analysed data on 176,886 adults with an average age 60 years with type 2 diabetes from the British Clinical Practice Research Datalink and 852,946 matched controls without diabetes between 2008 and 2015, to compare the risk of dying from cancer and to assess the link between BMI and cancer mortality in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

During an average 7.1 years of follow-up, 9606 deaths due to cancer occurred in people with type 2 diabetes and 37,853 in those without diabetes and overall, it was estimated that men with type 2 diabetes were 22% more likely to die from any cancer than men without diabetes. For women the risk was 31% higher.

The research also found that while men and women with diabetes were considerably more likely to die from obesity related cancers than their diabetes free counterparts at 84% and 47% higher respectively, they were also at greater risk of dying from non-obesity related cancers at 6% and 18% higher respectively.

Moreover, in people with diabetes, a high BMI was found to heighten the risk of dying for some specific obesity related cancers. This increased risk was strongest for endometrial cancer, with obese diabetics more than four times as likely to die from the disease as their healthy weight peers.

‘Our findings support the idea that obesity-related mechanisms contribute to the heightened risk of dying from cancer in people with type 2 diabetes’ said co-author Nasra Alam from the University of Manchester.

‘However, the higher risk for non-obesity related cancers also suggests that other pathways are involved. It seems likely that factors associated with obesity and diabetes contribute differentially to specific cancer types,’ Alam added.

The study authors also pointed out that with diabetes being associated with an increased cancer risk and mortality the importance of a healthy lifestyle is clearer than ever. It’s also important for health professionals and the public to be aware of the link between diabetes and cancer.

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