Diabetes and Cancer Risk
Apr. 06, 2011 - Having diabetes raises your risk for a number of complications, from nerve damage to heart disease, and one more possible complication just joined the list: cancer.
A study by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) that looked at data on nearly a half-million Americans found that diabetes appeared to raise the risk for cancer by 8 percent in women and by 9 percent in men.
The risk of dying from cancer was also greater in people with diabetes - 11 percent for women and 17 percent for men.
The study focused on 295,287 men and 199,665 women from eight states who had been a part of the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. After 11 years, 55,888 men and 26,364 women had developed cancer.
Diabetes raised the risk for these specific types of cancer:
- The risk for liver cancer increased by more than two-fold.
- The risk for rectal cancer increased by 28 percent.
- The risk for colon cancer increased by 15 percent.
In men with diabetes, the risk for pancreatic and bladder cancers increased, and in women with diabetes, stomach, anus, and uterine cancer risk was greater.
The study found no association between lung, skin, and other cancers and diabetes. And the risk for prostate cancer actually decreased in men with diabetes.
How does diabetes raise cancer risk? It's not clear, says lead author Gabriel Lai, Ph.D., at the NCI. "It's important that more studies are done," he says.
In the meantime, Lai recommends choosing a healthy lifestyle - one that stresses good nutrition and regular exercise - to prevent both diabetes and cancer.
"There are a lot of risk factors that are very similar among the two diseases," he says. "Maybe avoiding diabetes may be even better for avoiding cancer risk."
Beat Cancer with Good Nutrition
A diet low in fat and high in fruits, vegetables, and fiber may help protect you from certain types of cancer. But no one fruit or vegetable can do it all. To get the best cancer protection, go for variety. Here's what to include:
- Low-fat foods. Not only does a low-fat diet help you stay trim, it also decreases your chances for cancer. To reduce the fat in your diet, start by making small changes. Begin your day with a bowl of low-fat cereal instead of a doughnut. Or, snack on fruit instead of chips.
- Fruits and vegetables. One of the reasons these foods are so good for you is that they are naturally low in fat. They also contain nutrients such as antioxidants and carotenoids, which may help your body resist and fight cancers. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage may offer additional cancer protection. Keep fresh fruit handy and freshly cut vegetables in your refrigerator for quick, easy snacks.
- Fiber. You can get fiber by eating fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole-grain foods. Because most forms of fiber aren't digested by the body, fiber helps foods move more quickly through your colon. This reduces the amount of time that cancer-causing agents spend in the gastrointestinal tract.
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.