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Diabetes doubles risk of certain cancers – new report

Health Industry Hub | May 27, 2020 |

Medical News: Australians living with type 2 diabetes have a 60% higher chance of developing dementia than those without diabetes, and are twice as likely to develop some types of cancer, according to a new report analysing the full impact of the condition.

Released yesterday by the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, The Dark Shadow of Type 2 Diabetes report shines light on high-risk areas that are becoming increasingly recognised as complications of diabetes.

The latest national snapshot of type 2 diabetes shows a better approach is needed to address the wider health risks for the 1.5 million Australians currently living with type 2 diabetes, especially the growing number of those under 40 who may live with the disease for decades.

The report’s lead author and Head of Clinical Diabetes and Population Health at the Baker Institute, Professor Jonathan Shaw said diabetes increased the risk of numerous other diseases that most people may not understand were linked.

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“This is what we are calling ‘the dark shadow of type 2 diabetes’, as it can cast a much wider shadow than many realise,” Professor Shaw said.

A recent meta-analysis involving data from two million people showed those living with type 2 diabetes had a 60% greater risk of developing dementia compared to people without diabetes, with women more at risk than men.

Professor Shaw said people with type 2 diabetes were also more likely to develop many types of cancer.

“They are two to three times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer – one of the most deadly cancers, are twice as likely to develop liver or endometrial cancer, have a 50% higher chance of getting bowel cancer and a 20% greater risk of breast cancer,” he said.

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“Increased cancer risk is of particular concern for the growing number of people under 40 living with type 2 diabetes. This group saw a significant increase in deaths from cancer between 2000 and 2011.”

On average, a 45 year old person with diabetes can expect to live six years less than a person free of diabetes, and Professor Shaw said many of these earlier deaths were due to heart disease.

“Heart disease is still the biggest killer of people with type 2 diabetes, and our report shows that heart failure is a leading cause,” he said.

“People with type 2 diabetes are up to eight times more likely to suffer from heart failure, compared to those without diabetes.”

But Professor Shaw said the report also highlighted recent advances around the world showing that some of the newer diabetes medications had the potential to significantly reduce the number of people with diabetes who develop heart and kidney disease.

“In addition to controlling blood sugar levels, it is essential Australians living with type 2 diabetes are supported to keep blood pressure and cholesterol at healthy levels.”

Researchers at the Baker Institute are currently working to understand more about diabetes and how to prevent some of its devastating effects through large-scale research projects, including the PREDICT study.


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