Diabetes Linked with Higher Risk of Cancer, Greater Likelihood for Women


Diabetes significantly raises the risk of developing cancer, especially in women, according to a newly published study.

Diabetes significantly raises the risk of developing cancer, especially in women, according to a new global review published inDiabetologia.

In 2015, 415 million adults were reported to have diabetes, 5 million deaths were attributed to the disease, and 12% of global health expenditure was spent on diabetes and its complications, the researchers wrote. With global diabetes prevalence growing at a rapid rate, its role in the risk of cancer development adds to the concerns about the disease’s associated health impacts.

Although the link between diabetes and cancer risk has been observed in previous studies, there has been no systematic overview of the evidence available for the sex-specific differences in this association.

“The number of people with diabetes has doubled globally in the last 30 years, but we still have much to learn about the condition,” lead study author Toshiaki Ohkuma, MD, research fellow with The George Institute for Global Health, said in a press release. “It’s vital that we undertake more research into 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.”

For the review, the researchers analyzed data from 47 studies published up to December 2016 of 121 cohorts, including 20 million individuals and 1 million events. Overall, the researchers determined that women with diabetes had a 6% greater risk compared with men with diabetes for all-site cancer incidence. Diabetes also conferred an additional risk for women, compared with men, for leukemia (15%) and cancers of the stomach (14%), mouth (13%), and kidney (11%), but a lower risk for liver cancer (12%).

The researchers found that women with diabetes were 27% more likely to develop cancer than women without diabetes, whereas men were 19% more likely. The findings underscore the need for more research, specifically sex-specific research, into the association between diabetes and cancer.

“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,” Sanne Peters, PhD, study co-author, said in a press release. “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.”

Overall, the study findings indicate the importance of a sex-specific approach to the role of diabetes in cancer prevention and treatment, the researchers concluded.



Ohkuma T, Peters SAE, Woodward M. Sex differences in the association between diabetes and cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis of 121 cohorts including 20 million individuals and 1 million events.Diabetologia. 2018. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00125-018-4664-5

Diabetes raises risk of cancer, with women at even greater likelihood, a major new study has found [news release]. The George Institute for Global Health’s website. https://www.georgeinstitute.org/media-releases/diabetes-raises-risk-of-cancer-with-women-at-even-greater-likelihood-a-major-new. Accessed July 23, 2018.

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