Cancer Screening May Benefit Diabetes Patients

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes patients had higher risk for cancers of the pancreas, liver and esophagus, among others

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Diabetes patients may need to take extra precautions to lower their risk for cancer or catch it early.

A new study found that cancers of the pancreas, liver and esophagus were more common in people with diabetes. Women with diabetes had a higher risk of developing cancer than men with diabetes.

Diabetes patients can take extra precautions to prevent cancer. For instance, they can avoid smoking and use sunscreen whenever they go out to prevent melanoma, recommends the Mayo Clinic. They can also see a doctor for regular checkups and ask about preventive screening like mammograms and colonoscopies. Keeping blood sugar under control by following diet, exercise and medication recommendations may also lower cancer risk.

The authors of the current study recommended routine cancer screening in all people with diabetes.

“Using one of the largest diabetes registries in the world, we show that both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are associated with an excess risk of incidence and mortality for overall and a number of site-specific cancers," the authors of this study wrote. "Screening for cancers, according to standard protocols for the general population, in diabetic patients should be emphasized in clinical practice, as early detection is key to preventing premature mortality.”

Jessica L. Harding, of the Department of Clinical Diabetes and Epidemiology, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, led this study. The research team used data from the National Diabetes Registry in Australia to study whether type 1 and type 2 diabetes were linked to an increased risk of cancer.

In type 1 diabetes, people produce little or no insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. In type 2 diabetes, the cells are not sensitive to insulin the body produces.

Dr. Harding and team studied 953,382 patients who were entered into the diabetes registry between 1997 and 2008.

The incidence of any kind of cancer was about 2 percent greater in men with type 1 diabetes and 1 percent greater in women with type 1 diabetes than in the general population, these researchers found.

Women with diabetes had a higher risk of developing cancers of the pancreas, liver, esophagus, colon and rectum, stomach, thyroid, brain, lung, ovaries and endometrium. However, women with diabetes had a decreased risk of developing melanoma.

Women with type 2 diabetes were more likely to develop breast cancer than women with type 1 diabetes.

Men with diabetes had an increased risk of developing the same cancers as women when compared to the general population. When compared to women with diabetes, however, men with diabetes had a slightly lower risk of cancer.

Men with diabetes had a lower risk of prostate cancer than men in the general population, Dr. Harding and colleagues found.

The highest cancer risk for both men and women with diabetes was for cancers of the pancreas and liver.

This study was published Dec. 8 in Diabetes Care.

The National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing and the Victorian OIS scheme funded this research. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
December 15, 2014
Last Updated:
December 19, 2014