Skip to content

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

People With Diabetes May Need Earlier Colon Screen

40-Somethings With Diabetes Have About the Same Risk of Precancerous Growths as 50-Somethings Without Diabetes
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

May 22, 2012 -- Should people with diabetes be screened for colon cancer at younger ages than is usually recommended?

That may very well be the case, say researchers who found that people in their 40s with type 2 diabetes are about as likely to have precancerous colon growths called adenomas as people in their 50s without diabetes.

"It's almost as is if having diabetes advances your age by 10 years in this regard," says researcher Susan Hongha Vu, MD, a clinical gastroenterology fellow at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

If the findings are confirmed in a larger, more robust study, the guidelines should be changed so that people with diabetes start colon cancer screening at age 40, she tells WebMD.

Vu presented the study at the Digestive Disease Week conference in San Diego.

Colon Cancer Screening Guidelines

Current guidelines call for men and women at average risk to undergo regular colon cancer screenings beginning at age 50. Colonoscopy, which allows the doctor to view the entire colon and remove any abnormal growths, is the gold standard. There are several other screening options, though, such as flexible sigmoidoscopy and fecal occult blood tests.

But people at high risk of colon cancer should begin screening earlier, according to the recommendations.

Research suggests diabetes may be another such risk factor, Vu says.

"A lot of studies have shown an association between type 2 diabetes and an increased risk of colon cancer," she says.

"Studies also show that diabetes increases the risk of precancerous lesions in the colon," Vu says.

"But as far as we know, no one had taken the next logical step -- that is, to determine whether people with type 2 diabetes should be screened earlier," she says.

Study: Diabetes Appears to Affect Polyp Risk

So the researchers examined the medical records of three groups of people having a colonoscopy over a six-year period at their institution: 125 people ages 40-49 with type 2 diabetes, 125 people 40-49 without diabetes, and 125 people ages 50-59 without diabetes.

Colonoscopy found at least one precancerous polyp in:

  • 14% of those ages 40-49 without diabetes
  • 30% of those ages 40-49 with diabetes
  • 32% of those ages 50-59 without diabetes

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
kenneth fujioka, md
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Middle aged person
Home Healthcare

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
type 2 diabetes
food fitness planner