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The Impact of Insulin Use and Mortality from Breast Cancer in Women with Diabetes

Jul 31, 2015

Insulin use for more than three years associated with increased risk of disease…

People with diabetes may be at a greater risk of cancer such as liver, pancreas, endometrium, colorectum, bladder, and breasts. Certain diabetes medications can increase the odds of cancer even more. A previous study has suggested that women from Taiwan who were diagnosed with diabetes are at an increased risk of breast cancer mortality ranging from 1.37 fold to 2.43 fold. These findings vary according to the age group. Another study suggested that the correlation is due to the error in glucose metabolism and insulin resistance. The prognosis of breast cancer can potentially be affected by a diabetes diagnosis and fasting blood levels. Breast epithelial cells have insulin receptors, which can be unregulated in the presence of antidiabetic agents and lead to cell proliferation and, ultimately, breast cancer.


The purpose of this present study is to determine whether insulin utilization was predictive for death from breast cancer in females with diabetes. A total of 48,880 diabetic women were followed up to determine the mortality from breast cancer during 1995–2006. Statistical analysis was performed using Cox models, which considered independent variables such as age, sex, diabetes type, duration of diabetes, body mass index, smoking, the use of insulin, and area of residence.

The results showed that the use of insulin, without considering the length of use, was not statistically significant (1.339 [0.782-2.293, P = 0.2878]). The hazard ratios for breast cancer mortality for insulin utilization for ≥3 years were significantly greater than that in the other groups. The insulin utilization for >3 years was greater risk for breast cancer mortality in comparison to the other groups, but the findings did not have a strong statistical difference (0.05 < P < 0.1).

To conclude, this study showed that insulin use for three years or more can potentially be associated with a greater risk of breast cancer. More studies should be conducted to further prove this conclusion.

Practice Pearls:

  • Patients who utilize insulin for three years or greater are at a higher risk of breast cancer.
  • Insulin can cause a drive in cell proliferation in patients with breast cancer and diabetes.

Tseng CH. “Use of Insulin and Mortality from Breast Cancer among Taiwanese Women with Diabetes.” J Diabetes Res. 2015;2015:678756.