Diabetes, Obesity Cause Hundreds of Thousands of Cancers Annually


Liver cancer is the most common cancer caused by diabetes and obesity.

A new report published by The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology suggests that nearly 6% of new cases of cancer around the world were caused by diabetes and obesity in 2012. The investigators found that diabetes and obesity were linked to 800,000 cases of 12 different cancers.

Since the prevalence of diabetes and obesity has increased since 2012, it is likely that the impact of the conditions is even greater than the current research indicates.

In the study, the authors analyzed data regarding 12 different types of cancer in 175 countries in 2012. They also examined data on high body mass index (BMI) and diabetes.

Individually, obesity was associated with twice as many cancers as diabetes, with 3.9% (544,300) of cancer cases attributable to high BMI and 2% (280,100) attributable to diabetes, according to the study.

The authors projected that 1 in 4 diabetes-related cancer cases in 2012 were linked to the uptick of diabetes between 1980 and 2012. Additionally, nearly one-third of weight-related cancers were linked to the boom in obesity.

Notably, cancers related to the diseases were twice as common among women as men, according to the study.

If the global trends of diabetes and obesity continue on the current upswing, associated cancers will increase 30% in women and 20% in men by 2035, according to the authors.

Overall, obesity and diabetes were linked to one-quarter of liver cancers and one-third of endometrial cancers.

The authors discovered that liver cancer was the most common cancer caused by diabetes and obesity, accounting for nearly half of the linked cases, according to the study. Colorectal cancer was the second most common form of the disease, accounting for another 21.4% of all linked cases.

For women, breast cancer was most commonly linked to the conditions, followed by endometrial cancers. These findings suggest that weight and diabetes drive common female cancers.

The authors found that breast cancer accounted for 23.8% of all cancers attributable to obesity and diabetes in high-income western countries, while liver cancer accounted for 53.8% of related cancers in East and South-East Asia, according to the study.

These findings underscore the significant role diabetes and weight have on the increasing rate of cancer worldwide, especially in lower income countries.

“While obesity has been associated with cancer for some time, the link between diabetes and cancer has only been established quite recently,” said lead author Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard, BMBCh, Msc, MFPH. “Our study shows that diabetes, either on its own or combined with being overweight, is responsible for hundreds of thousands of cancer cases each year across the world.”

The authors hypothesize that high insulin, blood glucose levels, inflammation, and endocrine disruption may play a role in the link between cancer and obesity-related conditions.

These findings also highlight the need for food and other policies to combat the increase in diabetes and obesity, according to the authors. Physicians should also be aware of the cancer risk associated with diabetes and obesity.

“Both clinical and public health efforts should focus on identifying effective preventive, control and screening measures to structurally alter our environment, such as increasing the availability and affordability of healthy foods, and reducing the consumption of unhealthy foods,” Dr Pearson-Stuttard said. “It is vital that coordinated polices are implemented to tackle the shared risk factors and complications of chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes.”

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