diabetes and cancer; woman testing blood sugar with arrow pointing up over green background

A new study from The George Institute of Global Health has officially linked diabetes and cancer. The link has been suspected for years, but this is the first study that definitively proves it. What’s alarming about the study, published in Diabetologia, is that it’s mostly women with diabetes who are at risk for developing cancer.

The study

The study followed 20 million people from the United States, Japan, Australia, China, and the U.K. Researchers found that women with diabetes are 27 percent more likely to develop cancer than women without diabetes, and men with diabetes are 19 percent more likely to develop cancer when compared to men without diabetes. The study concludes that higher blood glucose levels could damage DNA and eventually cause cancer.

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What kind of cancers do diabetic women develop?

Diabetic women are more likely to develop the following cancers:

  • Kidney cancer, 11%
  • Oral cancer, 13%
  • Stomach cancer, 14%
  • Leukemia, 15%

However, this study that linked diabetes and cancer said that men with diabetes had a 12 percent higher risk of developing liver cancer when compared to women with diabetes.

Why are women at an increased risk?

Researchers are not sure exactly why diabetes and cancer is more prevalent in women than men, but they have some theories. Dr. Sanna Peters of The George Institute of Global Health and co-author of the study said, “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 medication as men.”

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Diabetes pandemic

Type 2 diabetes is a worldwide health crisis, with as many as 415 people currently dealing with the disease. Healthcare experts expect another 5 million to develop the disease every year. In the U.S. alone, almost 10 percent of the total population lives with the disease. Another 84 million people have prediabetes, but only 10 percent of them are aware they could go on to develop type 2 diabetes.

If you have symptoms of diabetes (frequent urination, increased thirst, and blurred vision), see your doctor to talk about testing your blood sugar levels.

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Kayla Pearce
Kayla Pearce is a Content Developer at Diabetic Nation in Memphis, TN. She has backgrounds in professional and creative writing and over a decade of experience in research and editing. She is deeply interested in literature, poetry, cats, and dessert.