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Diabetes Increases Cancer Risk by 20 Percent

May 16, 2013

Joint research by the Japan Diabetes Society and the Japanese Cancer Association has found that people with diabetes run a 20 percent higher risk of contracting cancer….

The risk nearly doubles for diabetes patients who contract liver or pancreatic cancer, researchers found.


At a news conference, representatives of the medical organizations emphasized the importance of having a balanced diet, exercising, refraining from smoking and exercising restraint in drinking, which are effective prevention measures against both diabetes and cancer.

"The connection between diabetics and cancer has become clearer," said Takashi Kadowaki, chairman of the board at the Japan Diabetes Society and president of the University of Tokyo Hospital. "It is important to prevent both cancer and diabetes with a healthy diet and exercise. I recommend people with diabetes to regularly have medical checkups."

The research team was headed by Shoichiro Tsugane, director at the Research Center for Cancer Prevention and Screening at the National Cancer Center in Tokyo.

The team tracked 155,000 men and 181,000 women aged 35 or older for an average of 10 years. Of those, 20,000 men and 13,000 women developed cancer. The team found that people having diabetes had a 20 percent higher risk of developing some form of cancer, compared with nondiabetics.

Increased risk for liver cancer was 1.9 times higher, followed by pancreatic cancer at 1.85 times and colon cancer at 1.4 times. Risks for endometrium and bladder cancers also were apt to increase.

On the other hand, diabetes patients were not found to be at increased risk of contracting breast cancer and prostate cancer.


When a patient develops diabetes, insulin is excessively produced in some organs, which stimulates cell growth. The joint committee says such a mechanism could increase the chances of contracting cancer.

In addition, with diabetes causing higher blood sugar levels, a patient’s DNA is more prone to being damaged.

An estimated 9 million Japanese have diabetes. The number will increase to 20 million if potential patients of the disease are included.

Researchers say an additional hundreds of thousands of people develop the disease every year due to an increase in the aging population and Westernized eating habits.

Presented at a news conference May 14, 2013, by the Japan Diabetes Society