People with diabetes are more likely to develop certain cancers than those without the condition, and a new analysis suggests that the increased risk is greater for women than for men.
Some previous research suggests that this may be due at least in part to biological changes caused by these conditions such as high blood sugar levels and chronic inflammation as well as increased production of estrogen in women and decreased testosterone in men.
While the smaller studies included in this analysis were not controlled experiments designed to prove whether or how diabetes might cause cancer, high blood sugar levels that can accompany diabetes can lead to DNA damage that may cause cancer, said lead study author Toshiaki Ohkuma of the George Institute for Global Health in New South Wales, Australia.
This, of course, holds true for both men and women, Ohkuma said.
“In addition, after diagnosis of diabetes, women are often undertreated or not getting the same level of treatment as men,” Ohkuma added. “This means that cumulative exposure to cancer-causing (high blood sugar) may be longer (and more pronounced) in women than men, and thus women are at greater risk of developing cancer.”
For many cancers that can develop in both women and men, women were more at risk, the researchers report in Diabetologia.
Compared to men with diabetes, women with diabetes were 11 percent more likely to develop kidney cancer, 13 per cent more likely to get oral malignancies, 14 per cent more likely to get stomach tumours and 15 per cent more likely to get leukaemia.
To minimise their risk of cancers associated with diabetes, men and women alike should focus on healthy behaviours that can prevent diabetes from developing in the first place, said Dr Graham Colditz, associate director of prevention and control at the Siteman Cancer Center and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri.
“Don’t smoke; be physically active; and eat a diet filled with fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in red and processed meats,” Colditz, who wasn’t involved in the study said. “These behaviours can have health benefits no matter what your weight and even if you also have diabetes.”