People With Diabetes More Likely To Have Cancer Diagnosis Interview with:

Iliana Lega, MD, FRCPC Assistant Professor Department of Medicine and a Clinician Scientist University of Toronto


Iliana Lega, MD, FRCPC
Assistant Professor
Department of Medicine and a Clinician Scientist
University of Toronto What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Diabetes and cancer share a variety of risk factors that predispose individuals to both conditions. However the exact mechanism of this relationship is unclear. Our study examined differences in cancer diagnosis at different time points around a diagnosis of diabetes. We found two interesting trends.

First, people with diabetes have the highest risk for cancer in the first 3 months following a diagnosis of diabetes.

Second, we found that people with diabetes are also more likely to have had cancer even prior to being diagnosed with diabetes. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: This spike in cancer risk immediately following a diagnosis of diabetes could in part be due to the increased health screening and health interactions that are triggered by a diabetes diagnosis. But it also points to a higher risk of cancer that likely predates the diabetes diagnosis, due to the shared risk factors, and that there may be opportunities to catch or prevent those cancers earlier. There are currently no cancer screening guidelines specifically for patients with diabetes. Our findings suggest that people with diabetes, and especially those at high risk for diabetes, may benefit from enhanced cancer screening and prevention programs. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: There is excellent evidence that diabetes can be prevented and that metabolic changes leading to diabetes can be reversed with lifestyle changes. Similarly, diet and exercise interventions have also been shown to reduce cancer risk and improve cancer outcomes in the general population. Our findings are important because they underscore the need for further research that examines the impact of exercise and healthy diet on cancer risk specifically in those with, or at risk for, diabetes. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Given the growing prevalence of diabetes in Canada and worldwide these projections potentially have implications for the future burden of cancer. We know that diabetes can be reversed with physical activity and lifestyle interventions in high-risk individuals, and it is possible that such interventions will also reduce the burden of cancer population-wide. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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