Research hints at diabetes cancer link

In collaboration with the Press Association

Adults with diabetes could be at slightly higher risk of developing certain forms of cancer, according to a new study.

However, the study's lead author, Dr Manami Inoue, stressed that without more research the link was still not conclusive, especially as a number of other factors could be responsible for the higher cancer rates including increased opportunities to be diagnosed and differences in lifestyle.

Several previous studies have suggested a link between diabetes and cancer, particularly pancreatic cancer, but it has never been proved conclusively that it is the diabetes itself that increases the liklihood of cancer developing.

The research conducted by Japanese scientists at the National Cancer Center in Tokyo, suggested that there may be a link with adult diabetes and the development of some forms of cancer, especially liver, pancreatic and kidney cancer.

A total of 98,000 people were involved in the study which suggested that male patients with diabetes were 27 per cent more likely than non-diabetics to develop cancer, whilst women with diabetes were also found to face a higher risk, although the results were less conclusive than in males.

Dr Inoue speculated that the link could be related to the fact that adult diabetics produce excess insulin, which may encourage the development of cancer cells in the liver or pancreas.

Cancer Research UK's Science Information Officer, Ed Yong, pointed out that despite this and previous studies linking diabetes to a higher risk of cancer, it didn't necessarily mean a cause-and-effect relationship.

"This does not mean that diabetes causes cancer. For example, being overweight or obese is a known cause of both diabetes and many types of cancer, so, in theory, excess body weight could account for the increased risk of both diseases," he said.

"It is important to remember that liver, pancreatic and kidney cancers are relatively rare while diabetes is relatively common. Even if these results are confirmed, it would mean that fewer than one in 50 diabetics would ever develop pancreatic cancer and even fewer would develop kidney or liver cancers."