Is there a connection between Diabetes and Cancer?
The possible link between diabetes and cancer has been a topic of interest for researchers. Studies have suggested that individuals with diabetes may have a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer.
In 2015, India had a staggering 69.2 million people living with diabetes, as reported by the World Health Organization (WHO). A study by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) in 2019 projected that nearly 98 million Indians could have type 2 diabetes by 2030. In light of these alarming statistics, it’s crucial to examine the connection between diabetes and cancer. Despite advancements in healthcare, India has witnessed a 150% increase in diabetes cases, and cancer-related deaths have doubled since 1990. This relationship is significant, as highlighted by the Indian National Program for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases, and Stroke (NPCDCS). Evidence shows that diabetes doubles the risk of certain cancers, including those of the liver, pancreas, and endometrium. Moreover, diabetes increases the risk of cancer-related deaths among Asians. A recent study, drawing data from 658,611 East Asians and 112,686 South Asians across various countries, found that individuals with type 2 diabetes (T2D) faced a 26% higher risk of dying from cancer (The study was published in the journal Diabetologia. It is the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes-EASD). This risk was particularly pronounced for liver, thyroid, and kidney cancers (twice the risk), endometrial cancer (2.7 times higher risk), and breast cancer (1.7 times higher risk).
The primary strategies of the national program to combat these health challenges include:
- Health Promotion: Encouraging behaviour change within communities and leveraging media and community-based organisations. Opportunistic screening at various healthcare levels for early detection of diabetes, hypertension, and common cancers is also emphasised.
- Management of Chronic Diseases: Early diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up, including establishing NCD clinics at different healthcare levels. Capacity building for prevention, diagnosis, treatment, research, and rehabilitation is a crucial focus.
- Support for Diagnosis and Treatment: Ensuring cost-effective treatment at primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare levels and developing a robust surveillance system to monitor NCD morbidity, mortality, and risk factors. Additionally, social media is used extensively to create awareness about NCD prevention and control. Mobile technology, such as the diabetes application, raises awareness, promotes treatment adherence, and fosters healthy habits, particularly among targeted groups.
However, the exact nature of this connection is still being explored, and further research is needed to fully understand the relationship between these two conditions. Individuals with diabetes must continue managing diabetes and regularly screening for cancer as their healthcare provider recommends. In conclusion, addressing the bidirectional relationship between diabetes and cancer is crucial. The cure & prevention effort is being led by institutions like the KLES Dr Prabhakar Kore Hospital & Medical Research Centre with the new upcoming KLE Cancer Hospital in Belagavi.
Prof. Dr. M V Jali,
MD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow), FKSTA, D.Litt
Professor of Diabetology (Med)