Chennai doctors see diabetes-cancer link

Prevention of diabetes will reduce the risk of cancer, say experts. For long, diabetes has associated with complications such as vision loss, kidney problems, heart attack and stroke. But oncologists and diabetologists are now quoting scientific data to show how increased sugar levels in blood can put people at risk of cancer.

Clinical studies on the association between two diseases is yet to begin in city, but doctors quote studies done abroad to say the benefits from preventing diabetes extend to reduction of risk of pancreatic, stomach, colon, rectal and liver cancer. Data from the diabetes registry of the city-based Mohan's Diabetes Centre shows that women are at higher risk when compared to men. Of the 580 diabetics with cancer 242 had breast cancer, 67 had cancer of the uterus, and 34 had prostate cancer. Researchers from the United States National Cancer Institute collected lifestyle and health data from five lakh people in the 50-71 age group and followed patients for 11 years. They found that having diabetes was associated with 11% increased risk of dying from cancer among women and 17% among men.

As of now there are no recommendations in India to screen diabetics for cancer, but oncologists say having diabetes certainly increases risk of death in cancer patients when compared to those with normal blood sugar. Diabetics may have lower tolerance for cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and steroid drugs. "The infection rates are higher and the healing process is slower in people with diabetes. We certainly put them at a higher risk scale," said oncologist Dr Ramesh B V Nimmagadda of Apollo Hospitals.

Cancer specialists say both diabetes and hypertension have common risk factors such as obesity, insulin resistance and high cholesterol levels. Both diabetes and cancer are seeing rampant increase in all urban and rural areas. The incidence of diabetes, according to studies by Madras Diabetes Research Foundation, is nearly 18% in Chennai city and cancer 275 in 100,000 as per the Madras Metropolitian Tumour registry. One in every eight persons in Chennai is at risk of getting cancer.

Diabetologist Dr V Mohan, who heads the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation said analysis done by scientists have shown that even pre-diabetes shares a risk factor with breast, pancreatic and colorectal cancer. In some cases, use of anti-diabetic drugs has also been associated as risks for cancer. Countries like France and Germany have banned the use of pioglitazone for treatment of diabetes as it is associated with bladder cancer. The US has issued a warning against the drug. "People with diabetes often have urinary tract infection due to sugar retention in the bladder. This also increases risk of cancer," said Dr Mohan.

The link between diabetes and cancer, doctors admit, is extremely complex. Some of the strongest findings relating to diabetes and cancer risk relate to colorectal cancer, but - as in other cancers - there are no clear answers.

Diabetologist Dr A Ramachandran said to test this hypothesis, he has planned a detailed study in Chennai. "We need to find out how many Indians diabetics are susceptible and to what kind of cancer," he said.

Similar Threads: