Not so Sweet News for Older Women

Colorectal cancer risks increased with elevated blood glucose levels

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) You know, it's tough getting old. And a new study doesn't make this fact any sweeter for postmenopausal women. In fact, if you love sweets, then look out - cancer may be in your sights.

Researchers have found a link between elevated blood glucose levels and increased risks of colorectal cancer in women who are beyond their reproductive years.

"Limit your sweets to limit your cancer risks."

Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University observed almost 5,000 postmenopausal women who participated in the National Institutes of Health's landmark Women's Health Initiative study. Geoffrey Kabat, Ph.D., a senior epidemiologist at Einstein and lead author of the paper, says the study documented the link, and the next challenge is to understand the biology behind the association.

Participants' fasting blood sugar and insulin levels were established at the beginning the study and then measured several additional times over the course of the next 12 years. 

At the end of the study, 81 of the women had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Researchers discovered that women who had elevated initial (baseline) glucose levels were at greater risk.

Those in the top third of baseline glucose levels had twice the likelihood of developing colorectal cancer as women whose glucose levels were in the lowest third. This pattern held true when researchers assessed glucose measurements throughout the study period.

However, there was no link between insulin levels and risk of colorectal cancer.

It's long been known that obesity is a risk factor for colorectal cancer. Scientists have theorized that this association is due to elevated insulin levels. This study disputes that theory, suggesting that high glucose levels - which are also commonly seen with obesity - are the culprits.

This study is published in the Nov. 29, 2011 online edition of the British Journal of Cancer.

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Review Date: 
November 29, 2011
Last Updated:
November 29, 2011