Cancer Mortality Rates Higher in People with Type 2 Diabetes, Study Finds

Diabetes, especially type 2, has been linked with a higher risk of liver, pancreatic, endometrial, colorectal, breast, and bladder cancers. A new study finds that the risk of dying of cancer is also higher among type 2 diabetes patients.

Research recently published in Diabetologia examined the long-term health of newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients. The aim was to identify cancer mortality trends in this group. The findings show that living with diabetes was linked with a higher risk of dying of cancer across the board.


The study involved nearly 138,000 people aged 35 and older who had recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes between 1998 and 2018. The median follow-up period was 8.4 years. The data for the study came from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink, a general practice database from the United Kingdom. The research team focused on trends in all-cause, all-cancer, and cancer-specific mortality, broken down by factors including age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and obesity. The team also estimated standardized mortality ratios, comparing those of the general population to those with type 2 diabetes.

The researchers found that all-cause mortality rates were down for all ages between 1998 and 2018. Cancer mortality rates were down for younger patients but up for 75- and 85-year-olds. However, people with type 2 diabetes were found to have an 18% higher mortality rate from cancer compared to the general population, with differing figures for each type of cancer studied. The breast cancer mortality rate, for example, was 9% higher in type 2 diabetes patients. There was also found to be a 4.1% annual increase in breast cancer mortality for younger type 2 diabetes patients throughout the study.


For diabetes-related cancers, including liver, pancreatic, and endometrial, the mortality rate was roughly double that of the general population. It was 2.4 times higher for colorectal cancer, as well.

The team says that the prevention of cardiovascular disease is a big focus for diabetes patients, but the findings indicate that cancer needs to be a strong consideration, as well.

They write, “The prevention of cardiovascular disease has been, and is still considered, a priority in people with diabetes. Our results challenge this view by showing that cancer may have overtaken cardiovascular disease as a leading cause of death in people with type 2 diabetes. Cancer prevention strategies therefore deserve at least a similar level of attention as cardiovascular disease prevention, particularly in older people and for some cancers such as liver, colorectal and pancreatic cancer… For people with type 2 diabetes, early cancer detection through changes to existing screening programs, or more in-depth investigations for suspected/non-specific cancer symptoms, may reduce the number of avoidable cancer deaths.”


Another recent study addressed diabetes patients’ risk of developing cancer, finding that keeping glucose in check is key in lowering that risk.

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