Diabetes Raises Risk of Cancer in Women, New Study Finds

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By : Suvarna Sheth

A global study of nearly 20 million people in countries including the U.S., Japan, Australia, China and the U.K. has found that having diabetes significantly raises the risk of developing cancer, and for women, the risk is even higher.

Researchers from The George Institute for Global Health found having type 1 and type 2 diabetes conferred an additional risk for women, compared to men, for leukemia and cancers of the stomach, mouth and kidney, but less risk for liver cancer.

They found women with diabetes were 27 percent more likely to develop cancer than women without diabetes. For men, the risk was 19 percent higher.  Overall, it was found that women with diabetes were 6 percent more likely overall to develop any form of cancer than men with diabetes.

Other key findings were significantly higher risks for women with diabetes developing cancer of the kidney, oral cancer, stomach cancer and leukemia compared to men with the condition. For liver cancer, however, the risk was 12 percent lower for women with diabetes compared to men with diabetes.

The findings, which were published in Diabetologia indicate the need for more research into the role diabetes plays in developing cancer.

“The link between diabetes and the risk of developing cancer is now firmly established,” reported lead author, Dr. Toshiaki Ohkuma in a press release. “We have also demonstrated for the first time that women with diabetes are more likely to develop any form of cancer, and have a significantly higher chance of developing kidney, oral and stomach cancers and leukemia,” he said.

Ohkuma also notes, “The number of people with diabetes has doubled globally in the last 30 years, but we still have much to learn about the condition. It’s vital that we undertake more research into discovering what is driving this, and for both people with diabetes and the medical community to be aware of the heightened cancer risk for women and men with diabetes.”

Co-author of the study Dr. Sanne Peters indicated in the press release that there were several possible reasons why women were subject to an excess risk of cancer, including the pre-diabetic state of impaired glucose tolerance lasting two years longer on average with women than with men.

“Historically we know that women are often undertreated when they first present with symptoms of diabetes, are less likely to receive intensive care and are not taking the same levels of medications as men,” Peters points out. “All of these could go some way into explaining why women are at greater risk of developing cancer. But, without more research, we can’t be certain.”