Patients with type 2 diabetes have twice the risk of dying from cancer, researchers say

Having type 2 diabetes makes death from certain types of cancer more than twice as likely, a major study has found.

People diagnosed with bowel, liver, pancreatic and endometrial cancer have twice the risk of dying if they are diabetic, according to British researchers.

Younger women with type 2 diabetes, often linked to obesity, were also found to be at increased risk of death if they developed breast cancer.

The findings suggest that cancer may have overtaken heart attacks and strokes as the leading cause of death in people with type 2 diabetes.

Younger women with type 2 diabetes -- often linked to obesity -- were also found to have a higher risk of death if they developed breast cancer (file image)

Younger women with type 2 diabetes, often linked to obesity, were also found to be at higher risk of death if they developed breast cancer (file image)

Experts believe that prolonged exposure to the effects of increased blood sugar and insulin levels, insulin resistance, and chronic inflammation can cause some types of cancer and potentially make others more deadly.

They warned that deaths could rise unless more is done to tackle the obesity epidemic and urged officials to consider additional cancer screening programs to target those most at risk. The study used the UK general practice database to access information on more than 135,000 Britons, aged 35 and over, who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes between 1998 and 2018.

While overall cancer death rates have fallen in less than 75 years, those related to type 2 diabetes have bucked the trend by rising over the past two decades.

Death rates from pancreatic, liver and lung cancer increased at all ages, while bowel cancer saw increases in most age groups, the researchers found.

Meanwhile, breast cancer rates increased in younger women, classified as under 55, and prostate and endometrial cancer rates increased in those 75 and older.

Dr Suping Ling, who led the research from the Leicester Diabetes Research Center and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the results showed that type 2 diabetes was influencing cancer death rates.

He suggested that changes to existing screening programs or further investigation for suspicious or non-specific cancer symptoms in type 2 diabetics may reduce the number of preventable cancer deaths.

Patients with diabetes are at increased risk of dying from cancer of the pancreas, intestines or liver, the researchers found.  Women with type 2 also face a higher risk of dying from endometrial cancer.

Patients with diabetes are at increased risk of dying from cancer of the pancreas, intestines or liver, the researchers found.  Women with type 2 also face a higher risk of dying from endometrial cancer.

Patients with diabetes are at increased risk of dying from cancer of the pancreas, intestines or liver, the researchers found. Women with type 2 also face a higher risk of dying from endometrial cancer.

She said: ‘The findings underline the increasing burden of cancer in people with type 2 diabetes, particularly in older people, and highlight the need to prioritize cancer prevention, research and early detection and management in this population.

“This is especially the case for colorectal, pancreatic, liver, and endometrial cancer, for which mortality rates were substantially higher in people with type 2 diabetes than in the general population.”

More than 4 million people in the UK are living with type 2 diabetes and a further 13.5 million are at risk of developing the condition due to rising levels of obesity.

There is increasing evidence that type 2 diabetes can cause cancer of the pancreas, liver and endometrium, but until now little research has been done on whether it affects overall cancer survival.

In this study, the researchers looked at trends in deaths from cancer and other causes by age, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, obesity, and smoking, and then compared the rates in people with type 2 diabetes to those in the general population. They found that having type 2 diabetes increased the chance of death from any type of cancer by 18 percent compared to the general population.

Morbidly obese people and smokers had a higher risk of dying from cancer, according to findings published in the journal Diabetologia.

Dr Claire Bromley, from Cancer Research UK, said: “Cancer survival is improving and has doubled in the last 40 years in the UK, but we need to go further and faster to improve survival for all.”

“There are many factors that influence whether a person is more likely to develop and die from cancer and research like this, which increases our understanding of these, is essential to improve outcomes.”

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