Scientists warn cancer risk ’27 per cent higher for diabetic women’

Scientists warn cancer risk ‘is 27 per cent higher for women with diabetes’ amid fastest growing modern health crisis

  • A major study found diabetic women are 27 per cent as likely to develop cancer
  • For men, the risk increased by 19 per cent compared to non-diabetic people
  • Britain’s growing diabetes epidemic could lead to soaring cancer rates soon

Having diabetes significantly raises the risk of cancer – particularly for women, scientists warned last night.

A major review involving almost 20million people found women with diabetes are 27 per cent more likely to develop cancer.

For men, the risk increased by 19 per cent compared to those who do not have the condition.

The study, led by experts at Oxford University, suggests Britain’s growing diabetes epidemic could lead to soaring cancer rates in the coming years.

Diabetes cases in the UK have doubled in just 20 years, making it the fastest growing modern health crisis. Almost 3.7million people are living with the condition, up from 1.9million in 1998.

Diabetes is a major cause of amputations, heart attacks and strokes and is increasingly linked to dementia 

Diabetes is a huge health problem – putting the kidneys, heart, eyes and nerves at risk.

It is a major cause of amputations, heart attacks and strokes and is increasingly linked to dementia. Scientists now believe it can cause cancer because high glucose levels damage DNA, which can lead to tumours forming. Researcher Dr Toshiaki Ohkuma, of the George Institute for Global Health in Oxford and Sydney, said: ‘The link between diabetes and the risk of developing cancer is now firmly established. It’s vital that we undertake more research into discovering what is driving this, and for both people with diabetes and the medical community to be aware of the heightened cancer risk for women and men with diabetes.’

Diabetes costs the NHS almost £9billion a year and one in six hospital beds are occupied by someone with the condition. The latest findings mean the costs could be even higher.

The research team found women with diabetes had a higher risk of kidney, oral and stomach cancers, and leukaemia. Men were at greater risk of liver cancer. The findings, published in the Diabetologia journal, applied to type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

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Co-author Dr Sanne Peters of Oxford University, said women spend an average of two years longer in a ‘pre-diabetic’ state of glucose intolerance, before their condition develops into full diabetes. This could explain why women have a higher cancer risk, because of damage done to DNA before treatment is given.

She 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 medications as men.

‘All of these could go some way into explaining why women are at greater risk of developing cancer.

‘But without more research we can’t be certain. The differences we found are not insignificant and need addressing.’

Some 90 per cent of cases of diabetes in Britain are of the type 2 form, which is strongly linked to lifestyle and obesity. The other form – type 1 – is an irreversible autoimmune disease which usually strikes in childhood, and stops the body producing insulin. There are an estimated five million people in the UK living with pre-diabetes or borderline diabetes – and they may not know may because there are usually no symptoms.

The Disability Discrimination Act says workers should not face discrimination because of their diabetes

The latest study suggests this leaves them at higher risk of cancer too – but they can reverse their condition with a good diet and exercise, while full-blown type 2 diabetes is considered incurable.

The NHS launched its Diabetes Prevention Programme in 2016 to provide diet advice and exercise training to 20,000 people a year with pre-diabetes.

But a study in the British Medical Journal last year suggested it was unlikely to work.

Diabetes UK estimates that 20 per cent of cancer patients have diabetes. The charity’s Dr Emily Burns said: ‘Being overweight increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. You can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes and cancer by maintaining a healthy weight, keeping active, not smoking, and sticking to the recommended alcohol guidelines.’

Women who are sensitive to bitter foods have a far higher risk of cancer, a study has found.

In a study of 5,500 British women over 20 years, those who were ‘super-tasters’ had a 58 per cent higher risk of cancer compared to those without the sensitivity. The findings were published in the European Journal of Nutrition.

‘Danger’ of complimentary therapies 

Cancer patients who use complementary therapy such as herbal treatments, yoga or homeopathy are more likely to suffer an early death, experts have warned.

Those using alternative treatments are far more likely to refuse conventional cancer treatments – such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery.

A study of nearly 1,300 patients in the US found those who resorted to treatments such as traditional Chinese medicine, tai chi and acupuncture, were twice as likely to die within five years. This was almost entirely because many of them either refused or delayed conventional treatment, the Yale scientists calculated.

The researchers tracked patients with breast, prostate, lung and bowel cancer for the study published in the JAMA Oncology journal. Some 1,032 had at least one conventional therapy. Another 258 patients who used complementary regimes were more likely to die from the disease. Co-author Dr Cary Gross said it was important that patients ‘aren’t being sold a false bill of goods’ in relation to alternative treatments.

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