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    Physicians shouldn’t underestimate link between diabetes, cancer

    An association between high body mass index (BMI) and the risk for certain cancers, including colorectal, pancreas and kidney cancer, has been well established, with one study estimating that about 3% of all cancer cases in 2012 were attributable to high BMI.

    However, the link between diabetes and cancer was established only just recently, according to Henry Chi Hang Fung, MD, vice chair of hematology at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

    A study published in Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology found that diabetes and high BMI were the cause of 5.6% of new cancer cases worldwide in 2012. The study quantified the proportion of cancer attributable to diabetes and high BMI. They used data on the incidence of 12 types of cancer from 175 countries in 2012 and combined it with data on high BMI and diabetes. The researchers matched the data sets by age group and sex to take account of age differences using diabetes and BMI data from 2002 to calculate cancer incidence in 2012 attributable to these risks.

    The increase in the number of people with diabetes between 1980 and 2002 led to a 26.1% increase in new cases of attributable cancers. There were no data establishing the cause for the relationship between diabetes and cancer but some proposed mechanisms included hyperinsulinemia, chronic inflammation or dysregulation of sex hormone activity. Prospective studies “with more accurate assessments of adiposity, diabetes, and metabolic health,” are needed to draw conclusions about the relationship, according to the study.

    Fung related the results of this study to the relationship between smoking and cancer.

    “Not everyone who smokes will get cancer, and every cancer is associated with smoking, not only just lung cancer,” Fung told Medical Economics. “Similarly, there is no model showing that because you have diabetes you will then get cancer.”

    Next: An important public health issue

     

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