Two Hidden Cancer Causes: Diabetes and Obesity

Two Hidden Cancer Causes: Diabetes and Obesity

Does a widening waistline put you at risk for cancer? Apparently so. According to a new study, nearly 6 percent of cancers are attributable at least in part to obesity and diabetes.

Researchers compared incidence data for 12 cancers in 175 countries in 2012 with body mass index and diabetes prevalence figures from 2002, on the assumption that it takes at least ten years for cancer to develop.

They found that in 2012, diabetes and a B.M.I. above 25 were independent risk factors for 792,600 new cases of cancer, about 5.6 percent of the 14,067,894 cases reported to a worldwide cancer registry.

Among the cancers associated with diabetes and high B.M.I. were tumors of the colon, gallbladder, liver and pancreas. Obesity and diabetes weren’t the only causes of these cancers, but the conditions played a role.

“We know a lot about what causes obesity and diabetes, but what it is about being obese or diabetic that causes cancer is less clear,” said the lead author, Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard, a clinical fellow at Imperial College London. “It may be that exposure to high insulin levels or insulin resistance may also be a cause of cancer.”

The study, in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, found considerable differences in the proportions of cancer cases attributable to B.M.I. on the one hand and to diabetes on the other.

For example, high B.M.I. was associated with about twice as many cases of colorectal cancer as diabetes, and nearly three times as many cases of breast and endometrial cancers. Diabetes was not associated with kidney cancer at all, but high B.M.I. was linked to about a fifth of kidney cancer cases.

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