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Outside the Lab Cancer, Metabolism & Diabetes, Public health

A Deadly Combination

Obesity and diabetes represent two significant – but also potentially preventable – sources of human death, disability and disease. But what damage are they doing when united? A recent study has found that together, the two conditions contributed to 792,600 cases of cancer in 2012 – or 5.6 percent of new cases (1). “While obesity has been associated with cancer for some time, the link between diabetes and cancer has only been established quite recently. Our study shows that diabetes, either on its own or combined with being overweight, is responsible for hundreds of thousands of cancer cases each year across the world,” said Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard, lead author of the study and a Clinical Fellow at Imperial College London, UK (2).

For the study, the authors defined a BMI of 25 or over as “high”, and did not distinguish between type I and type II diabetes (a potential limitation when considering preventative measures). They hope that the results will highlight the toll obesity and diabetes are having on public health, and call for more to be done to tackle the problem. “Both clinical and public health efforts should focus on identifying effective preventive, control and screening measures to structurally alter our environment, such as increasing the availability and affordability of healthy foods, and reducing the consumption of unhealthy foods”, said Pearson-Stuttard. “In the past, smoking was by far the major risk factor for cancer, but now healthcare professionals should also be aware that patients who have diabetes or are overweight also have an increased risk of cancer,” he added.

Cancer cases attributable to high BMI and diabetes in men versus women.
Top cancer types attributable to high BMI and diabetes in women.
Top cancer types attributable to high BMI and diabetes in men.
Cancer cases in 2012 attributable to high BMI and diabetes as individual risk factors.
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  1. J Pearson-Stuttard et al., “Worldwide burden of cancer attributable to diabetes and high body-mass index: a comparative risk assessment”, Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol, [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 29195904.
  2. Imperial College London News, “Diabetes and obesity together responsible for nearly 800,000 cancers worldwide”, (2017). Available at: bit.ly/2B9aVCY. Accessed December 18, 2017.
About the Author
Roisin McGuigan

I have an extensive academic background in the life sciences, having studied forensic biology and human medical genetics in my time at Strathclyde and Glasgow Universities. My research, data presentation and bioinformatics skills plus my ‘wet lab’ experience have been a superb grounding for my role as a deputy editor at Texere Publishing. The job allows me to utilize my hard-learned academic skills and experience in my current position within an exciting and contemporary publishing company.

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