Researchers Link Type 1 Diabetes to an Increased Risk for Certain Cancers

A new study examined whether people with type 1 diabetes were more likely than the general public to develop certain types of cancer. Completed by researchers from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, this study aimed to build upon other studies that have conducted similar research among people with type 2 diabetes. In the past, studies have relied on this data, but because type 2 diabetes usually develops in adults who are obese or overweight, researchers hoped to see if the same findings could be true of people with type 1 diabetes.

About the Study

Researchers from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute analyzed national registry data of people with type 1 diabetes from Sweden, Scotland, Finland, Denmark, and Australia. The data used was from 2008 or 2012, and the records were linked to each country’s national cancer registries.

After examining all of the data, it was found that there were approximately 9,150 first incidences of cancer among the diabetic patients identified. About 50% of these individuals with cancer were under the age of 51. When this information was compared to the general public over the same time frame, men with type 1 diabetes exhibited similar cancer diagnosis rates overall. On the other hand, women with type 1 diabetes were 7% more likely to have been diagnosed with cancer.

Results Differed Depending on the Type of Cancer

When looking at the difference in risk for particular types of cancer, it is clear that there are some significant discrepancies between the population with and without type 1 diabetes:

  • Stomach, liver, kidney, pancreas and endometrium cancers were 25-50% more common among people living with type 1 diabetes
  • Breast cancer was 10% less common among people living with type 1 diabetes
  • Prostate cancer was 56% less common among people living with type 1 diabetes

Arguably the biggest risk increase was found with liver cancer, which was found to be twice as common in men with type 1 diabetes. The disease was 78% more common among women with type 1 diabetes. However, since liver cancer rates tend to be quite low nationally to begin with, even with this significant increase, the risk of developing the disease is still low, even with type 1 diabetes.

What the Findings Mean for People with Type 1 Diabetes

According to Jessica H. Harding, one of the coauthors of this study, people with diabetes and those with cancer have a variety of common risk factors, including smoking, poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, and obesity. However, the overall excess risk for cancer among people with type 1 diabetes is only moderate, and while the risk of certain cancers is slightly higher among people with type 1 diabetes, it is not significant enough to cause widespread concern. People with type 1 diabetes should not be alarmed by the results of the study, but they should continue to follow medical recommendations for cancer prevention.

These findings were published in Diabetologia on February 29, 2016.

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