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Type 2 Diabetes Might Raise Risk of Liver Cancer

But odds for malignancy are low; study found stronger connection for some minorities

continued...

People with type 1 diabetes, however, do not have an increased risk of liver cancer, he said.

The new research is scheduled for presentation Sunday at an American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Atlanta. The data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The study analyzed data collected between 1993 and 1996 from nearly 170,000 black, Native Hawaiian, Japanese-American, Latino and white adults. Researchers followed up with the participants about 16 years after they had answered a comprehensive health questionnaire. Over that time, about 500 participants had developed liver cancer.

Information about risk factors -- such as age, whether they had type 2 diabetes, alcohol intake, body-mass index (a measure of body fat) and cigarette smoking -- was analyzed, and blood tests for hepatitis B and hepatitis C were performed on about 700 of the participants, with and without liver cancer.

Whether people smoked or drank alcohol did not appear to change the relationship between having diabetes and getting liver cancer, the researchers said.

Although the study found an association between having type 2 diabetes and developing liver cancer, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

North Shore's Bernstein urged caution in interpreting the results. "It's a single study that talks about a large number of people with a common disease like diabetes and links it to liver cancer," he said. "We have a lot more learning to do and more work is needed to prove an association and define what the risk really is."

A study this month by the American Diabetes Association showed that many Americans are unaware that they are at risk for type 2 diabetes. D'Olimpio urged people to get the simple blood test, called fasting blood sugar, to test for diabetes.

The next step is to learn what role genetics may play in whether an individual with type 2 diabetes will develop liver cancer, study author Setiawan said.

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