Diabetics may be at increased risk for cancer

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A study just published in the journal Diabetes Care found that diabetic men and women were 10 percent more likely to have had a cancer diagnosis of any kind. Researchers from the CDC, using data from a telephone survey of nearly 400,000 adults, found that 16 to 17 out of every 100 diabetics have cancer — a rate significantly higher than the seven per 100 men and ten per 100 women found among non-diabetics.

The cancers more commonly found in diabetic men were of the colon, pancreas, rectum, urinary bladder, kidney and prostate. In diabetic women, there were more instances of breast or uterine cancer and leukemia. Most notable of all was the increased risk of pancreatic cancer, which appeared in 16 out of 10,000 diabetic men, versus two out of every 10,000 non-diabetic men.

As yet, there is no explanation for the co-morbidity of these diseases, though the study’s lead author Dr. Chayong Li speculates that high blood sugar levels or excess blood insulin might be involved. Dr. Fred Brancati of Johns Hopkins University, who was not involved in the CDC study, has done research that identified a 40 percent increased risk of death from cancer among diabetics. “It pays to think about [the two diseases] together,” he told Reuters Health.

ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross, while in agreement with the researchers’ conclusions and call for continued examination of the link between cancer and diabetes, assuages our fears by pointing out that “the actual difference in the number of people who will get pancreatic cancer with or without diabetes is not large.”