Strong Link between Diabetes and Cancer Death Identified in First-Of-Its-Kind Study of Asians

Researchers recommend cancer screening for Asians with diabetes

Thursday, March 16 2017

Yu Chen, PhD

Asians with type 2 diabetes are up to 170 percent more likely to die from many specific types of cancers, including pancreatic, colorectal, breast, liver, gallbladder, endometrial, ovarian, and prostate cancer, than those who do not have type 2 diabetes, according to a new study by researchers in the Department of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine. Diabetes was not significantly associated with the risk of death from leukemia and cancers of the bladder, cervix, esophagus, stomach or lung, according to the results.

The research, publishing March 7 in Diabeteology, is the first major study of a large and diverse Asian population, representing over 771,000 individuals in 19 cohorts from Asia Cohort Consortium in seven Asian countries, including Bangladesh, India, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and Singapore. There has already been evidence of an association between type 2 diabetes and an individual’s risk of developing cancer or dying from the disease in Western nations.

“The data suggest that the influence of diabetes on the risk of death from overall cancer, digestive cancers and breast cancer is largely similar in Asians and in developed Western countries,” said lead author Yu Chen, PhD, who is an associate professor in the Department of Population Health’s Division of Epidemiology. “Doctors and patients should consider diabetes as a risk factor for cancer in Asians, especially for liver cancer, which has a high incidence in this population.”

One potential reason for the connection is that the higher blood-insulin levels that characterize type 2 diabetes are also believed to contribute to the development of many cancers. Some evidence suggests that, at any given body mass index, Asians are more susceptible to insulin resistance and have a higher prevalence of diabetes in comparison to whites.

-Elaine Meyer