Diabetes and cancer share many risk factors, and a new study reveals that Asians with Type 2 diabetes have a 26 percent higher chance of dying from cancer and a risk of death from specific cancers that can be even greater.
“Diabetes has been increasing in Asian countries due to lifestyle changes,” said Dr Yu Chen, a researcher at New York University School of Medicine who participated in the study.
“As Asians eat more of a Western diet and adopt a Western lifestyle, they become more susceptible to diabetes.”
The study looked at about 658,611 East Asians and 112,686 South Asians from Bangladesh, Chinese mainland, India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.
It was published last week in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes or EASD).
Chen said in an interview that “diabetes prevention is very important not only to prevent diabetes but also to prevent cancer as well”.
She said there are theories on why diabetes and cancer are linked.
“Some cancer cells are sensitive and may be influenced by diabetes,” Chen said.
Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common type of diabetes worldwide and affects about 90 percent of those who have the disease.
It is the result of the body’s ineffective use of insulin and is often triggered by excess body weight and physical inactivity.
The study’s results are consistent with data from research done in Western countries.
It found significant links between Type 2 diabetes and an increased risk of death from specific carcinoma like colorectal, liver and pancreatic cancers.
Participants were on average 53.9 years old at the start of the study, and 37,343 cancer deaths were identified during a mean follow-up time of 12.7 years.
“A major strength of this study was its large sample size of diverse Asian populations, which allowed for a detailed analysis that could take into account differences in factors such as sex, age, smoking status and alcohol consumption,” the study said.
Chen said there has been some research on whether Asians are more susceptible to diabetes than residents of the West, such as the US.
“There have been some studies that looked at BMI (body mass index. a measure of body fat) and diabetes that indicated that Asians may be more likely to have diabetes at the same level of BMI with US residents, but I don’t believe this has been established yet,” Chen said.