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Diabetes Health Center

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High Blood Sugar Raises Cancer Risk

Diabetes Linked to Increased Risk of Pancreatic and Other Cancers, Study Shows

1 in 31 Cancer Deaths continued...

The association was strongest for pancreatic cancer, with high blood sugar and diabetes (defined as a fasting blood sugar greater than 125mg/dl) almost doubling the risk for men and more than doubling the risk for women. An increased risk with high blood sugar or diabetes was also found for colorectal cancer and cancers of the esophagus and liver in men, and cancers of the liver and cervix in women.

The researchers estimated that 848 of the 26,473 total cancer deaths reported during the 10-year period could be attributed to diabetes and high blood sugar levels.

Lowering Risk

The latest population figures suggest that 64% of Americans are overweight or obese, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more. Roughly a third of U.S. adults are obese, defined as having a BMI of 30 or more. BMI is determined by calculating height and weight. Being obese is strongly associated with numerous medical conditions and higher death rates.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics rates of obesity have increased from 12.8% in 1976-1980 to 22.5% in 1988-1994 and 30% in 1999-2000.

In an editorial accompanying the study, Kathleen Cooney, MD, and Stephen Gruber, MD, PhD, of the University of Michigan Medical School, wrote if current trends continue, 40% of Americans will be classified as obese within five years and type 2 diabetes rates will rise dramatically.

Obesity has long been considered a risk factor for many types of cancer, including postmenopausal breast cancer and cancers of the pancreas, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, gallbladder, and colon.

Cooney and Gruber noted that while the new findings directly implicate diabetes as a risk factor for many of these cancers, they don't completely explain the obesity/cancer link.

"Several complex physiological changes also result from obesity, including alterations in sex steroid levels," they wrote.

American Cancer Society epidemiologist Carmen Rodriguez, MD, says the findings strengthen the argument that keeping weight under control is key to preventing disease.

"This study clearly shows that diabetes increases the risk of certain cancers, and being overweight is a big risk factor for diabetes," Rodriguez tells WebMD. "The message is clear. You can lower your risk for these cancers by controlling your weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity."

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