Type 2 diabetes is linked to an increased risk of dying from cancer

Type 2 diabetes is linked to an increased risk of dying from cancer

Research suggests that the risk of dying from any type of cancer is 18 percent higher among people with type 2 diabetes, compared to the general population

Health


24 January 2023

Type 2 diabetes, which requires people to check their blood sugar levels regularly, is linked to an increased risk of cancer

Type 2 diabetes, which requires people to check their blood sugar levels regularly, is associated with an increased risk of cancer

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A study has suggested that people with type 2 diabetes are more likely to die from any type of cancer than the general population. Although the reasons for this are unclear, it may be related to the prolonged elevated blood sugar levels and inflammatory effects seen in type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes has previously been linked to an increased risk of developing cancer. However, the severity of the risk and how it affects mortality is unknown.

To learn more, Suping Ling at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and her colleagues looked at a database of more than 137,800 people in the UK, aged 35 or over, with type 2 diabetes.

The researchers tracked whether any of the participants were diagnosed with cancer, and the outcomes of their condition, from 1998 to 2018.

At the end of the study period, these results were compared to people in the general UK population with the same type of cancer and other similar characteristics, such as age and weight. Figures for the general population were taken from the Office for National Statistics and included people with and without type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes aside, cancer accounts for around 1 in 4 deaths in the UK. However, the results show that the participants with type 2 diabetes were 18 percent more likely to die from any type of cancer compared to the general population.

The risk of dying from colorectal cancer specifically or having it affect the liver, pancreas or endometrium, the tissue that lines the uterus, was about twice as high.

“People with type 2 diabetes are living longer and as a result their bodies are exposed to insulin resistance for longer, which increases their risk of cancer,” says Ling.

The results also show that breast cancer mortality was 9 percent higher among participants with type 2 diabetes. This increased by 4.1 percent per year among the younger participants, defined as those aged 55 at the start of the study.

According to Ling, further research should assess whether people younger than 55 with type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of breast cancer mortality and could benefit from earlier mammograms, which are offered by the national health services in the UK for women between 50 and 70 years of age.

Mammograms in younger women aren’t always useful, however, because they tend to have denser breast tissue, which can lead to misdiagnosis and unnecessary treatment, Ling says.

People with type 1 diabetes were not included in the study. Other research suggests they also have an increased risk of certain types of cancer.

According to Jonathan Stegall at The Center for Advanced Medicine, Georgia, the latest study should help doctors monitor people with type 2 diabetes for a possible increased risk of developing cancer, he says.

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