New study finds link between diabetes and cancer

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Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found a link between diabetes and cancer, according to research published ahead of print in Diabetes Care. Of the almost 400,000 adults surveyed, diabetic men had a higher prevalence of prostate, colon and pancreas cancer while diabetic women had higher prevalence for breast cancer compared with nondiabetic patients.

“Studies have found that diabetes is associated with an increased risk for certain types of cancer, and diabetes may increase the risk of all-cause mortality among people with cancer,” Chaoyang Li, MD, PhD, of CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues wrote.

Li et al used data from the 2009 CDC Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to evaluate whether or not there was a linkage between cancer and diabetes in adult patients. The survey was conducted via phone and 397,783 adults participated. The survey asked patients whether they had ever been told by a physician that they had either diabetes or cancer. The survey included 10 major cancer sites and 29 cancer types.

Survey respondents had a mean age of 46.8 years and there were 151,459 males, 318,070 non-Hispanic whites, 31,168 non-Hispanic blacks, 26,764 Hispanics and 21,781 other participants of varied racial or ethnic backgrounds.

In addition to having a heightened prevalence of prostate, colon and pancreatic cancers, diabetic men also saw a higher prevalence of urinary bladder and kidney cancers compared with men with no diagnosis of diabetes. Likewise, the researchers reported that diabetic women had higher prevalence of cancers of all sites and cancers of the breast and endometrium and leukemia compared to women without diabetes.

Diabetic men also saw a higher prevalence of liver cancer, and diabetic women had a higher prevalence of liver cancer and pancreatic cancer compared with those who did not have diabetes.

“These findings have significant public health implications because the strong associations of diabetes with certain cancer types may inform public health decisions and policies regarding the priorities of cancer screening and clinical management,” the authors wrote.

Li et al said that screening is an important tool to help detect early onset of certain cancers, specifically those that are more prevalent in diabetics. The researchers noted that previous studies have shown that diabetic women had lower rates of screening for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers.

“These findings highlight a need for increased attention to and efforts in preventing and screening certain cancers to reduce the disease burden and improve the quality of life among adults with diabetes in the general population,” the authors concluded.