Increased Breast Cancer Diagnosis Rate for Diabetic Women

One of the reasons a diagnosis of diabetes is such bad news is that the disease carries a threat of further health risks from blindness to heart disease.  Now a new Canadian study suggests women just diagnosed with diabetes are more likely to be found to have breast cancer, as well.  However, the good news is that one reason for this is that doctors are looking harder for other problems when they know their patient is diabetic.  In addition, diabetes itself may not increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer at all, just up her chances of an early diagnosis and effective treatment.

Diabetes, whether type 1 or 2, carries the threat of links to a raft of health issues because the symptoms of the disease damage body organs and systems and compromise the immune system.  Regularly high levels of blood sugar do no favors to organs such as the heart, kidneys, and nerves, which may all suffer in consequence.   Diabetes can also raise blood cholesterol and blood pressure.

Past studies have linked the disease, which affects 25.8 million Americans, with cancers, including breast cancer.  However, the study found number crunching did not seem to indicate an increased risk of breast cancer in diabetic women – just an increased diagnosis rate.

When a woman is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes she will initially spend quite a lot of time at her doctor’s office or the local health center having tests and learning to cope with her newly diagnosed condition.  Doctors are clued up on the risks associated with diabetes and may be assessing their new patient more completely to check she is not suffering any diabetic side effects.  So problems such as breast lumps may be more likely to be picked up at this stage.

The team of scientists at theUniversityofAlberta,Edmonton, looked at the cases of 170,000 British Columbian women, half of whom had recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.  The other half were non-diabetic.  The researchers studied the data from these two groups for four or five years and found 2,400 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, or about 1.4% of the patients.

They found women in both groups had a roughly equal chance of getting breast cancer, but older women recently diagnosed with diabetes had a higher chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Jeffrey Johnson, one of the team who did the study, commented, “The relationship that we see (between diabetes and cancer), we wondered if it was something about the fact that people with diabetes go to the doctor’s office more often.”  He pointed out that newly diagnosed diabetics undergo a great many health checks, which for women could include mammograms, which could pick up problems that had been there before the diabetes.

Although previous studies have found associations between diabetes and cancers such as liver, pancreatic, colorectal and breast cancer, the team thought this might be a coincidence.  People with some of the risk factors for diabetes, such as poor dietary habits, obesity, and insufficient exercise would also be at risk from some cancers, and this might explain the association of diabetes and some cancers.  However, they did not rule out the effects of diabetes, such as blood sugar levels, as contributing to cancer.

Next Post → ← Previous Post