Diabetes Increases Risks of Cancer

Links between diabetes, cancer and cancer related deaths

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

(RxWiki News) A new study shows that avoiding or controlling diabetes may reduce risks of developing or dying from cancer.

Results of the National Institutes of Health-American Association of Retired Persons (NIH-AARP) Diet & Health Study revealed that diabetes is associated with lower risk of prostate cancer in men, but with higher risk of other cancers in both men and women.

Diabetes increases risk of developing and dying from cancer.

The data, also showed an association between diabetes and higher cancer death rates.

Gabriel Lai, Ph.D., a cancer prevention fellow at the National Cancer Institute, said, “Our results provide further evidence that abnormal insulin and glucose signaling may contribute to cancer initiation and development.”

"Diabetes increases risks for most cancers"

Results showed that diabetes was associated with:

  • 8 percent increased risk for cancer for women
  • 4 percent decreased risk of cancer for men
  • 9 percent increased risk for cancer for men when prostate cancer is excluded

In previous research, a decreased risk for prostate cancer was associated with diabetes, which researchers believe may be due to the lower testosterone levels associated with diabetes.

Diabetes increases cancer deaths

The study showed diabetes increased cancer mortality rates, including:

  • 11 percent increased risk of cancer death in women
  • 17 percent increased risk in men.

“These risks appeared independent from other cancer risk factors, such as obesity and cigarette smoking,” Lai said.

Diabetes increases in specific types of cancer

The researchers found diabetes was associated with a significant increased risk of specific types of cancer:

  • For men and women with diabetes, colon, rectal and liver cancers increased.
  • In men, diabetes was associated with an increased risk for pancreatic and bladder cancers.
  • In women, diabetes increased risk for stomach, anal and endometrial cancers.
  • No association was found between diabetes and lung, skin or other cancers.

The study

Lai and colleagues conducted a prospective study using data from more than 500,000 predominantly white, non-Hispanic men and women aged 50 to 71 years.

From 1995 to 1996, the participants completed questionnaires about diet, lifestyle and whether or not they had diabetes. Researchers followed the patients for 11 years.

Avoiding or controlling diabetes vitally important

“There are myriad benefits from avoiding diabetes through exercise, diet and maintaining a healthy body weight. Our study confirms additional benefits in the form of reduced morbidity and mortality from certain cancers,” Lai said.

“Follow-up studies to identify the biologic mechanisms involved should be performed to build upon confirmed findings,” he added.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 8, 2011
Last Updated:
April 12, 2011