People with type 2 diabetes at higher risk of developing cancer, study demonstrates

By Editor
17th March 2023
Research, Type 2 diabetes

Individuals with type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop breast and bowel cancers compared to people living without the condition, latest evidence reveals.

In the UK, cancer is now the most common cause of death among people with diabetes. Despite this, people with diabetes are less likely to participate in cancer screening which can improve survival from the disease.

Researchers at Leeds Beckett University spoke to people aged 50 to 74 in the UK to find out if they are aware that type 2 diabetes increases the risk of breast and bowel cancer.

The researchers also reviewed the top-ranking diabetes websites to find out if people are being told about the increased cancer risk by diabetes care providers and organisations.

They found that:

  • Relatively few people asked knew that type 2 diabetes increases the risk of breast cancer and bowel cancer
  • People with type 2 diabetes had equally low awareness about their increased risk of breast and bowel cancer, but they were aware of the risk of other diabetes-related conditions including sight loss, foot problems and heart disease
  • Few websites included cancer in their key information about diabetes-related health problems. In contrast, all or most websites highlighted the more well-known risks of sight loss, foot problems and heart disease.

Dr Laura Ashley, a Reader in Health Psychology from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, led the research: “The research showed that unfortunately there is low public awareness that type 2 diabetes increases the risk of developing breast and bowel cancers.

“Awareness is low even among people with type 2 diabetes who you would hope would be more aware.”

She added: “This may be due partly to limited information provision from diabetes care providers and organisations.

““Our research showed that in general people are aware that Type 2 diabetes increases the risk of other conditions like sight loss and foot problems, but people with diabetes should also know about their increased cancer risk so they can make fully informed decisions about taking part in cancer screening.”

She concluded: “Providing cancer risk information and promoting cancer screening could be brought more under the wing of diabetes care.”

Leeds Beckett University worked with researchers from the University of Glasgow, University of Leeds and the University of Toronto to carry out the research.

The research has been published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

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