Type Two Diabetes Linked to Increase Colon Cancer Risk

If you have diabetes, you know it’s about more than just managing your blood sugar. Diabetics have an increased risk of many serious health complications like nerve damage, stroke, kidney disease and vision problems. And now, new research shows that type 2 diabetes is clearly linked to an increased risk of colon cancer.

Paul J.H.L. Peeters of the Utrecht University in the Netherlands led a team of researchers in an observational population-based cohort study to assess the risk of colon cancer among nearly 300,000 patients on antidiabetic medications. The diabetic patients were matched with a comparison cohort of individuals without diabetes. After a median follow-up of 4.5 years, researchers found 2,759 cases of colon cancer among the group of diabetic patients. The authors concluded that type two diabetes was associated with a 1.3-fold increased risk of colon cancer, with the greatest risk seen among patients who had been obese for 4-8 years and longer than 8 years (Source:Diabetes Care).

In addition to an increased risk of developing colon cancer, diabetics also have an increased risk of colon cancer morbidity. Studies show that colon cancer patients with diabetes are more likely to die than patients without diabetes, even after accounting for other factors like disease stage, smoking and obesity.

The reason behind this risk is still unknown, but Peter Campbell, Ph.D., of the American Cancer Society offers a few theories. The first is hyperinsulinemia, a condition which causes a person’s insulin levels to be higher than normal. These high levels of insulin are thought to promote the growth and development of cancer. Another theory is hyperglycemia (having too much sugar in the blood) and chronic inflammation caused by diabetes.

Campbell says that further research is needed to determine why type two diabetes increases the risk of colon cancer. Future research will likely focus on whether type two diabetic medications can affect colon cancer risk, the molecular link between diabetes and colon cancer, and how type 2 diabetes affects patients diagnosed with colon cancer.
In the meantime, people can take preventive steps to lower their risk of developing both colon cancer and type two diabetes. They include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Limiting red meat intake
  • Staying physically active
  • Not smoking
  • Limiting alcohol

(Source:American Cancer Society).

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