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Diabetes Health Center

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Diabetes Risks Go Beyond Heart Attacks, Strokes

Study: 40% of Deaths in People With Diabetes Are Due to Non-Cardiovascular Causes

Diabetes and Cancer continued...

“We were in some way expecting this finding, but of course, this is quite a major advance in the science process to quantify many of these questions,” says study researcher Emanuele Di Angelantonio, MD, a university lecturer in the department of public health and primary care at Cambridge University in the U.K.

Other experts agree.

“This result highlights the importance of continued work on why diabetes increases cancer risk,” says Edward Giovannucci, MD, ScD, a professor in the departments of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

“I think it is good that this area is receiving more attention because besides smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, related problems such as diabetes are likely to be close to importance as smoking for cancer risk,” says Giovannucci, who was the lead author of a consensus statement jointly published by the American Cancer Society and the American Diabetes Association in 2010.

Though it’s not clear exactly how diabetes may increase cancer risk, the consensus statement notes: “The relative risks imparted by diabetes are greatest (about twofold or higher) for cancers of the liver, pancreas, and endometrium, and lesser (about 1.2-1.5 fold) for cancers of the colon and rectum, breast, and bladder. Other cancers (e.g., lung) do not appear to be associated with an increased risk in diabetes, and the evidence for others (e.g., kidney, non-Hodgkin lymphoma) is inconclusive. Few studies have explored links with type 1 diabetes.”

One common link may be insulin.

Often before people become diabetic, their bodies crank out ever higher levels of insulin because their cells stop responding to it, a condition called insulin resistance.

Insulin also contributes to inflammation, another process that can drive cancer.

Advice for People With Diabetes

“The main message for patients and doctors is probably we should think about non-vascular death,” says Di Angelantonio. “We should consider appropriate screening for cancer in patients with diabetes.”

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