Diabetes Linked to Blood Cancers

Type 2 diabetes associated with leukemia and other blood cancers

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

(RxWiki News) Doctors have to carefully watch their diabetes patients for other serious health problems like kidney disease and heart disease. Now, it seems doctors should keep an eye out for blood cancers as well.

People with type 2 diabetes may have an increased risk of certain blood cancers, including leukemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"Lose even a few pounds to reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes."

Type 2 diabetes has already been linked to liver and pancreatic cancer. In a recent study, Jorge Castillo, MD, of the Miriam Hospital in Rhode Island, and colleagues found that people with type 2 diabetes may be 20 percent more likely to develop blood cancer.

"I think when most people think about diabetes-related illnesses, they think of heart disease or kidney failure, but not necessarily cancer," says Dr. Castillo.

"But when you consider that more than 19 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes - not to mention the millions more who are either undiagnosed or will be diagnosed in the future - a 20 percent increased risk of blood cancer is quite significant," he says.

By examining 26 past studies, the researchers found that type 2 diabetes patients had a higher risk of developing leukemia, myeloma, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Diabetes patients also had an increased risk of T-cell lymphoma, a sub-type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. However, there was no link between type 2 diabetes and Hodgkin's lymphoma.

In their study, Dr. Castillo and colleagues included over 17,000 cases of type 2 diabetes and blood cancer from around the world.

The results show that the risk of leukemia, multiple myeloma, and lymphoma vary depending on the region of the world the study came from. For example, the risk of leukemia was higher in Asia and the United States, while the risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma was higher in Asia and Europe.

The researchers are still unclear about what causes the link between diabetes and these blood cancers.

The findings suggest that type 2 diabetes may be linked to as much as five percent of all cases of leukemia, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

In a Miriam Hospital press release, Dr. Castillo reminds us that type 2 diabetes can be controlled and prevented through a healthy diet and regular exercise.

"So by preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes, we could also prevent blood cancer," he says.

According to the Dr. Castillo and his fellow researchers, more studies are needed to explore the relationship between diabetes and blood cancer. They say that future research should focus on lifestyle behaviors that have been linked to both diabetes and cancer, including obesity, lack of exercise and smoking.

This research was supported by the National Center for Research Resources, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, and the Marilyn Fishman Grant for Diabetes Research from the Endocrine Fellow Foundation.

The study appears online in the journal Blood

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Review Date: 
June 5, 2012
Last Updated:
November 8, 2012