Health Insights

Is there a link between type 2 diabetes and cancer?

We explore the connection between these two conditions.

Written by Editor Medibank

Studies have observed an association between type 2 diabetes and cancer, with research suggesting that people with diabetes are at significantly higher risk for many forms of cancer.

This observation is reflected by data from the Medibank Better Health Index, which shows that the incidence of cancer is twice as high among those with type 2 diabetes.

What is the relationship between these conditions?

While research suggests there's a relationship between these two conditions, the exact nature of the association remains unknown.

What we do know is that the link appears to be present for certain cancers, being strongest in those of the liver, kidney and pancreas, while for other cancers the link appears to be weaker or non-existent. Interestingly, prostate cancer is reported to occur less often in men with diabetes.

There are various theories around how these two conditions could be connected. Studies have suggested that high levels of insulin (hyperinsulinemia) and high blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia) -- both frequently seen in diabetics -- may promote cancerous cells. While another theory is that diabetes and certain cancers simply share mutual risk factors -- such as a poor diet, lack of exercise and subsequent obesity -- which are contributing to the onset of both conditions. Further, some studies have also explored a potential link between particular diabetes medications and cancer, however these results have been largely inconclusive.

What does this mean for those affected by type 2 diabetes?

Based on these findings, and given cancer is most successfully treated when caught in the early stages, it’s important that those affected by diabetes are aware of how their bodies are functioning. If there are any symptoms worrying you, chat them through with your GP to ensure they’re nothing to be concerned about.

Reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes and related conditions

We know that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes can be reduced by up to 58% by making healthy eating choices, maintaining a healthy weight, managing your cholesterol and blood pressure and exercising regularly. These positive lifestyle choices will not only help you live a healthier life day-to-day, but may lower your risk of developing a chronic health condition down the track.

Written by Editor Medibank

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