Diabetes type 1&2 increases cancer risk

A global review involving almost 20 million people has shown that having diabetes significantly raises the risk of developing cancer, and for women the risk is even higher. Researchers from The George Institute for Global Health also found diabetes conferred an additional risk for women, compared to men, for leukaemia and cancers of the stomach, mouth and kidney, but less risk for liver cancer.

Diabetes affects more than 415 million people worldwide, with five million deaths every year. With the number of people with diabetes doubling globally in the last 30 years, this research emphasises how little we really know about the condition and its wider health implications – but the direct linking of cancer to diabetes may help alert people to the seriousness of the condition.

Some key findings included: women with diabetes were 27% more likely to develop cancer than women without diabetes. For men the risk was 19% higher. Diabetes was found to be a risk factor for the majority of cancers of specific parts of the body for both men and women, but it was calculated that women with diabetes were 6% more likely overall than men with diabetes to develop any form of cancer. There were significantly higher risks for women with diabetes for developing cancer of the kidney (11%), oral cancer (13%), stomach cancer (14%) and leukaemia (15%) compared to men with the condition. For liver cancer, the risk was 12% lower for women with diabetes compared to men with diabetes.

It is believed that heightened blood glucose associated with diabetes may have cancer-causing effects by leading to DNA damage, while the reason why women are at higher cancer risk may be because they are typically in the pre-diabetic state of impaired glucose tolerance two years longer on average than men, but more research is required. However, the research suggests what we eat, especially the amounts of processed food, may have bigger health implications for men and women that previously proven.

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