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Is Diabetes Putting You At Risk For Cancer?

Is Diabetes Putting You At Risk For Cancer?

Clinical evidence suggests that people with obesity and diabetes are at increased risk of developing cancer. One study reported that patients with diabetes are 1.43 times more likely to get colorectal cancer, and 2.39 times as likely to die of colorectal cancer.

Anti-hyperglycemic medications taken by people with diabetes to control their blood are thought to be the possible reason for increasing the cancer risk. However, there is not clear evidence to support this. The role of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) in cancer development has not been proven yet, but an association cannot be ruled out. In this article we will try to understand why diabetes increases the risk of developing cancer.

How is Diabetes Linked to Cancer?

Type 2 diabetes and certain cancers share risk factors give below

  • Increasing age
  • Male gender 
  • Overweight and Obesity
  • Low physical activity levels
  • Smoking
  • High alcohol consumption (more than one drink for women or two drinks for men per day)


Diabetes and cancer share common underlying biological mechanisms

Insulin Resistance

Some experts suggest that cancer, obesity and diabetes share common biological mechanism, such as insulin resistance and inflammation. The collective activation of these individual mechanisms promotes an environment of increased proliferation, inhibited apoptosis (programmed cell death), and increased genomic instability eventually leading to cancer. The strongest hypothesis that explains why diabetes might increase the risk for certain cancers revolves around hyperinsulinemia (higher than normal levels of insulin levels in blood). In fact, the effect of insulin and insulin-like growth factor-I(IGF-I)on cancer development and progression hasalso been demonstrated in some human studies.

Increased Body Fat

High body fat is other important common risk factor that is responsible for type 2 diabetes as well as cancer. The expert report from the American Institute for Cancer Research suggests that high body fat is convincingly linked to increased risk of several cancers, including pancreatic and colorectal. Increased body fat causes several hormonal changesleading to increased risk of cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Anti-Diabetic Medications

The link between the use of anti-diabetic medications and cancer risk has been a major focus of research in recent years. However, scientists have not found any conclusive results so far. Some research revealed that metformin was associated with a decreased risk of pancreatic cancer in women only, whereas use of sulfonylureas and insulin was associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. However, there is no clear evidence of a direct causation between medications for diabetes and cancer.

Cancer patients with diabetes have a significantly higher overall mortality risk compared with patients without diabetes. The possible association between cancer and diabetes needs a serious attention, in light of the fact that diabetes and obesity are increasing dramatically. The role of anti-diabetic medication in cancer development is not clear yet. However, role of hyperglycemia, body fat and insulin is somewhat clear through human studies. Increased blood sugar and body fat appears like the modifiable risk factors that can be controlled in order to reduce the risk of both type 2 diabetes and cancer.


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