Researchers find cancer risk factors for diabetics

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 May, 2010, 12:00am

Chinese University researchers have discovered what could increase and decrease the risk of cancer among diabetes patients.

The study found that poorly controlled blood-sugar levels in diabetics raises the risk of cancer - increasingly a major cause of death among diabetics - and insulin treatment could reduce the risk.

The discoveries were 'very important' because one in 10 Hongkongers suffer from diabetes, and they are 30 per cent more likely to get cancer - in particular pancreatic, liver and breast cancer, according to Professor Juliana Chan Chung-ngor, who led the team.

The five-year study found that for every 1 per cent increase in glycated haemoglobin - an indicator of average blood-glucose control in the last two months - the risk of all-site cancer increased 26 per cent.

The study also recruited about 3,000 type-2 diabetes patients with no known history of cancer, and treated about 1,000 with insulin, leaving 2,000 without insulin treatment.

It found that the risk of developing cancer was reduced by 80 per cent for patients treated with insulin, compared with those without insulin.

The study 'strongly links' insulin use with reduced cancer risk, but does not prove the connection, Professor Ronald Ma Ching-wan of the university's medicine and therapeutics department said.

'We do not know for sure whether it's the insulin that's actually reducing the risk of cancer because patients on insulin are likely to be on other medications like cholesterol-lowering drugs, anti-blood pressure drugs, and some that protect the kidneys. But we observed that patients on insulin appear to have a lower risk,' Ma said.

Chan advised diabetics to keep an eye on their blood-sugar levels from an early stage.