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Diabetic women at greater risk of cancer than men with condition - study

Female with Diabetes and Depression (PRNewsfoto/Ieso Digital Health)

By Sally Wardle, Press Association Health and Science Correspondent

Diabetes is linked with an increased risk of developing cancer particularly among women, new research suggests.

A review of 47 studies involving almost 20 million people has shown for the first time that women with the condition are at a greater risk than men of developing any form of the disease, the authors said.

They warned the gender differences were "not insignificant" and needed addressing.

The research by The George Institute for Global Health, an affiliate of the University of Oxford, found women with diabetes are 27% more likely to develop cancer than women without the condition.

Diabetes among men was linked with a 19% higher risk, according to the findings published in journal Diabetologia.

Overall, the researchers found women with diabetes are 6% more likely to develop any form of cancer than men with diabetes.

Co-author Dr Sanne Peters, of the George Institute, said: "Historically we know that women are often undertreated when they first present with symptoms of diabetes, are less likely to receive intensive care and are not taking the same levels of medications as men.

"All of these could go some way into explaining why women are at greater risk of developing cancer.

"But, without more research we can't be certain. The differences we found are not insignificant and need addressing."

Women with diabetes have an 11% higher chance of developing kidney cancer, 13% higher chance of oral cancer, 14% higher chance of stomach cancer and 15% higher chance of leukaemia compared to men with the condition, the research found.

However they had a 12% lower chance of liver cancer than men with diabetes.

It is believed that heightened blood glucose may have cancer-causing effects by leading to DNA damage.

Lead author and research fellow at the institute, Dr Toshiaki Ohkuma, said: "The link between diabetes and the risk of developing cancer is now firmly established.

"We have also demonstrated for the first time that women with diabetes are more likely to develop any form of cancer, and have a significantly higher chance of developing kidney, oral and stomach cancers and leukaemia.

"The number of people with diabetes has doubled globally in the last 30 years but we still have much to learn about the condition.

"It's vital that we undertake more research into discovering what is driving this, and for both people with diabetes and the medical community to be aware of the heightened cancer risk for women and men with diabetes."

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