‘Increased cancer risk for diabetics’

Women with diabetes were 27 per cent more likely to develop cancer than women without diabetes the study found

Lead author Dr. Toshiaki Ohkuma, research fellow with The George Institute for Global Health, said: "This review provides strong evidence for a link between diabetes and the risk of developing cancer".

An estimated 1.7 million Australians have diabetes, while two million are diagnosed with pre-diabetes and at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

"Women often spend longer duration than men in the prediabetic stage [of the disease], where glucose levels are high", Ohkuma told Live Science in an email. What's more, women with diabetes "should also participate in any available cancer-screening checkups to detect cancer earlier", he added. The study looked at data on all-site cancer events (incident or fatal only) from 121 cohorts, with the participation of 19,239,302 individuals. The risk of developing kidney cancer (11% higher), oral cancer (13% higher), stomach cancer (14% higher) and leukemia (15% higher) were significantly higher in women with diabetes than men with this disease.

Other studies have shown general links between diabetes, cancer, heart disease and dementia, but the George Institute researchers said until now, it was unknown whether men and women with diabetes faced the same increased risks.

Though the number of people with diabetes has doubled globally since 1980, Dr Ohkuma said much about the condition remains a mystery - such as why it raises cancer risk. Overall, women with diabetes were 6% more likely to develop some form of cancer than men with diabetes. The researchers said heightened blood glucose levels could have DNA-altering effect, leading to development of tumours and cancers.

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Co-author Dr. Sanne Peters of The George Institute for Global Health at the University of Oxford, said there were several possible reasons why women were subject to an excess risk of cancer.

The researchers found that women with diabetes had a 27 percent higher risk of cancer compared with women without diabetes, while men with diabetes had a 19 percent higher risk of cancer compared with men without diabetes.

"Historically, we know that women are often under-treated when they experience the first symptoms of diabetes, are less likely to receive intensive care, and do not take as many medications as men".

They warned the gender differences were "not insignificant" and needed addressing. They also demonstrate the increasing importance of sex specific research.

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