Diabetics With Cancer: Higher Mortality Risks?

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We all worry when we hear that a loved one has diabetes or pre-diabetes. But what about diabetics with cancer? How does that combination affect the mortality rate of those particular patients?

We went looking for some answers and found some in a University of Copenhagen (Denmark) article that reported on a 14-year study of patients who had both diabetes and cancer.

Authored by Kristina Ranc, the study found that mortality rates were indeed higher for diabetics with cancer than for diabetics without cancer.

It appears that diabetes patients on insulin treatment who also had cancer evidenced the highest mortality rates. For insulin-treated patients with diabetes for two years at the time of diagnosis of any type of cancer, mortality rate ratios were 3.7 (95% confidence interval [CI], 2.7–5.1) for men and 4.4 for women (95% CI, 3.1–6.5) at one year after cancer diagnosis, and increased to 5 (95% CI, 3.5–7.0) for men and 6.5 (95% CI, 4.2–9.3) for women at nine years after cancer diagnosis. Mortality rates also were higher among patients receiving oral hypoglycemic agents for diabetes.

This study highlights how important it can be for diabetics like myself–even those of us who do not have cancer–to do everything we can to keep our diabetes under control (or even to reverse it). Sometimes you can’t control whether you get either disease, but you can minimize it. Next time I’m tempted to go off my diet or miss my daily exercise, I will hopefully remember this study.

Is there a link between diabetes and cancer?

That’s a question for your doctor, of course. I put my journalism hat on and found a number of articles on this topic. Here’s an excerpt from an article put out by the American Diabetes Association:

Diabetes and cancer are common diseases with tremendous impact on health worldwide. Epidemiologic evidence suggests that people with diabetes are at significantly higher risk for many forms of cancer. Type 2 diabetes and cancer share many risk factors, but potential biologic links between the two diseases are incompletely understood. Moreover, evidence from observational studies suggests that some medications used to treat hyperglycemia are associated with either increased or reduced risk of cancer.

According to the article, cancer and diabetes are more common within the same person than would normally be expected by chance.

The reasons for this are “incompletely understood,” the article reported.

Here’s another excerpt from this same article:

More recently, the results of several studies have been combined for meta-analytic study (6), indicating that some cancers develop more commonly in patients with diabetes (predominantly type 2), while prostate cancer occurs less often in men with diabetes. The relative risks imparted by diabetes are greatest (about twofold or higher) for cancers of the liver, pancreas, and endometrium, and lesser (about 1.2–1.5 fold) for cancers of the colon and rectum, breast, and bladder. Other cancers (e.g., lung) do not appear to be associated with an increased risk in diabetes, and the evidence for others (e.g., kidney, non-Hodgkin lymphoma) is inconclusive. Few studies have explored links with type 1 diabetes. Source,

It’s noted that both cancer and diabetes share some common risk factors, including aging, sex, obesity, physical activity, diet, alcohol and smoking.

Again, the authors of this study say the link between cancer and diabetes is inconclusive. Later studies may offer more clarification.

Check out this video from Dr. Jorge Castillo, MD, from the Miriam Hospital:

If you’re worried about this issue for yourself or a loved one, be sure to check with your physician for more specific information that pertains to you as an individual, rather than to the entire universe of diabetes patients. The more you know, the more easily you can deal with your physical challenges.

Additional Reading:
Diabetes and Cancer: A Consensus Report
Illuminating the Diabetes–Cancer Link

Note: This website is not intended for the dispensation of medical advice. Always check with your personal physician before changing your diet or exercise program.

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