Diabetes Patients May Face Higher Risk of Head, Neck Cancers

Head and neck cancers were more common in diabetes patients in recent study

(RxWiki News) Diabetes is known to increase many health risks like heart disease and obesity. But new research suggests the condition may also be linked to head and neck cancers.

Scientists in Taiwan found that diabetes patients were more likely than others to develop head and neck cancer.

"Seek medical care if you think you might have diabetes."

This study was conducted by Kuo-Shu Tseng, PhD, of the Tainan University of Technology in Taiwan, and colleagues.

The researchers set out to examine any potential link between head and neck cancers and diabetes, a condition in which blood sugar levels are too high due to a resistance to the hormone insulin, too little insulin or both.

Head and neck cancer includes cancers of the mouth, nose, sinuses, salivary glands, throat and lymph nodes. Symptoms include a lump or sore that doesn’t heal, a sore throat that doesn’t go away, trouble swallowing or a change in the hoarseness of the voice.

Around 85 percent of head and neck cancers are linked to alcohol and tobacco use.

The study authors reported that head and neck cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer, accounting for 6 percent of all cases and about 350,000 deaths each year.

Using a Taiwanese health insurance database, the study authors identified 89,089 patients newly diagnosed with diabetes and compared them to a matching group of nondiabetic patients.

The study authors found 634 patients with head and neck cancer in the diabetes group.

In the nondiabetes group, 447 patients had head and neck cancer. The incidence of head and neck cancer was 1.47 times higher in newly diagnosed diabetic patients.

The study authors concluded that diabetics are at an increased risk of developing head and neck cancer and should be closely monitored.

Because head and neck cancer is tied to smoking and alcohol abuse, the authors identified a lack of background information regarding study participants’ lifestyles as a limitation to their work.

The study was published online July 24 in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Otolaryngology. Funding for the research came from the Taipei Medical University and the Chi Mei Medical Center Research Fund.

The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
July 23, 2014