Type 1 Diabetes May Cause a Variety of Cancers


The findings of a study published in the journal Diabetologia imply that type 1 diabetes may increase the risk of some cancers and at the same time lower the risk for others.

The team behind this survey, led by Dr. Stephanie Read, of the Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences & Informatics at the University of Edinburgh in the UK, analyzed individuals with Type 1 diabetes below 40 years, guided by the national statistics in five countries namely Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Australia, and Scotland.

The team then scrutinized the occurrence of cancer in these individuals and established that 9,149 people would get diagnosed with different cancers within 3.9 million person-years.

The scientists compared the results with national cancer figures in each country against the numbers of type 1 diabetes cases in the general population.

The team determined that if all factors were to remain constant, men diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes were at equal risk of developing cancer with men without the disease. However, women with type 1 diabetes had a 7 times higher risk of cancer when pitted against the general population.

The Figures

According to the findings of the study both men and women with type 1 diabetes were at an increased risk for cancers as follows:

  • Cancers of the liver – (Men 70%, women 55%)
  • Cancers of the Pancreas – (Men 53%, women 25%)
  • Cancers of the kidney – (Men 30%, women 47%)
  • It was also noted that women had a 42$ higher risk for endometrial cancer.

In the same breath, the scientists say that women with type 1 diabetes have a 10% lesser risk of breast cancer while men have a 44% lower risk of prostate cancer.

While women with type 1 diabetes may be at a lower risk of breast cancer, the team emphasizes that this may apply to younger women, and the postmenopausal women may still be at risk.  For the men with type 1 diabetes, the scientists attribute the lower levels of testosterone as the reason for the reduced risk.

Risk of Cancer Said to Be Higher in the Early Days of Type 1 Diabetes

Dr. Read and his team say the risk of cancer is 23% higher in the first year of being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes for both men and women. The researchers add that this is because, during the early months of being diagnosed with cancers, doctors tend to deal with diabetes itself only to detect cancer when administering other medications.

Dr. Read and his team acknowledge that the findings of their study may help explain the association between diabetes and Type 1 diabetes.  However, they do not encourage an alteration for screening in individuals with type 1 diabetes.

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Remember, an estimated 1.25 million American have Type 1 diabetes, with most of the incidences reported in women and children. Early detection is essential as it makes it easier to manage the disease.