The Diabetes and Cancer Link

What you need to know.

Theresa GarneroBy Theresa Garnero, APRN, BC-ADM, MSN, CDE

One more thing to add to the "forewarned is forearmed" list: researchers have found several connections between diabetes and cancer.

Although that may come as frightening news, some of the evidence may come as a surprise: some types of cancer rates are higher while rates of other types are lower in people with diabetes, a common medicine for type 2 may prevent cancer, and a cancer drug may help prevent type 1 diabetes.

Research Findings
A recent large-scale study following over 125,000 people with type 2 diabetes lead by Dr. Kari Hemminki of the German Cancer Research Center, found an increased risk for 24 types of cancer. The most significant rates were for pancreatic and liver cell cancers (elevated by factor 6 and more than 4 times the risk respectively compared to the general population). Since pancreatic cancer and diabetes both involve the pancreas, evidence remains unclear on whether diabetes causes or results from the cancer. Risk for cancers of the kidneys, thyroid, esophagus, small intestine, and nervous system were more than twice the rates of those without diabetes.

Other studies have found the following:
1. Meta-analyses from 15 studies and 2.5 million people with diabetes resulted in a 30 percent more likelihood of developing colorectal cancer. Women with type 2 over the age of 55 had double the risk.

2. Women with diabetes had a 20 percent greater risk of developing breast cancer. People with breast cancer treated with chemotherapy and metformin have better outcomes.

3. Metformin use is associated with an anti-cancer effect as those who take it have substantially lower cancer rates (62 percent lower risk of pancreatic cancer and up to 37 percent reduced risk for all cancers). Notably, research has also shown that people with diabetes already diagnosed with cancer may respond better to chemotherapy when treated simultaneously with metformin.

4. Those who take both Actos or Avandia and metformin have a 35 percent reduction in cancer mortality.

5. Further research is needed to better understand the risks and mechanisms that appear to link insulin with tumor growth. This finding may have more to do with insulin resistance rather than a direct effect of insulin itself.

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Last Modified Date: July 08, 2013

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by Brenda Bell
It's a known quantity that The Other Half and I handle our diabetes, and the rest of our medical issues, differently. Although he is more diligent about keeping to a time schedule for medications, his meal choices run further from green plants than mine do (sadly cold weather, persistent chill, budget, and tight schedules keep me further from five-a-day than I should like to be — hey, cheap frozen diet meal manufacturers, could you please make something that has vegetable...
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