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The Link between Diabetes and Breast Cancer

Diabetic measures her blood glucose levels regularlyA study that was recently published in Diabetologia has released new evidence on the link between breast cancer survivors and diabetes. The largest clinical trial of its kind to date has shown that breast cancer survivors, who are post-menopause, have a higher risk of eventually developing diabetes. This particular study also showed that there was a significant correlation between the patients who had undergone chemotherapy and those that had gone on to develop diabetes.

 

Scientists and medical researchers have become increasingly more aware of this apparent association between cancer and diabetes. For instance, female diabetics have about a 20 percent higher chance of developing postmenopausal breast cancer. One particular clinical trial on diabetes from last year demonstrated that diabetics over the age of 60 were more likely to also be diagnosed with breast cancer when compared to women of the same age who didn’t have diabetes.

Long Term Outcomes for Breast Cancer Survivors

Nowadays, more women are beating breast cancer, but researchers are still looking to fully understand what the future holds for these breast cancer survivors as they get older. Still, only a handful of studies have attempted to pinpoint the risk of diabetes for women who have survived this deadly disease.

With this latest breast cancer clinical trial, a team of researchers, led by Dr. Lorraine Lipscombe (she works at the Women’s College Research Institute in Toronto), were able to compile and analyze data from a patient population in Ontario. With this data, they were able to compare the prevalence of diabetes among breast cancer survivors who were older than 55 to other women in the same age group who had never developed cancer.

The Occurrence of Diabetes during the Follow-up Period

Diabetes and breast cancer could affect more womenBefore conducting this clinical trial, they also looked into which patients had undergone chemotherapy for their breast cancer and who had not. All in all, this particular clinical trial utilized a patient population of just under 150,000 (including 24,976 breast cancer survivors and 124,880 controls).

According to the results, out of all the study’s subjects, only 9.7 percent had developed diabetes during the follow-up period of nearly 6 years. Compared to the controls, the risk of diabetes did increase amongst these breast cancer survivors only two years after they had been diagnosed. After a decade, this risk of diabetes had jumped from 7 percent to 21 percent.

The research team observed some interesting results in the 4,404 patients who had undergone adjuvant chemotherapy. The study showed that this group’s risk of developing diabetes was greatest during the first two years after their diagnosis (24% higher than the control group) and it reduced over the course of the decade.

Other Factors Contributing to Link between Diabetes and Breast Cancer

The lead investigators for this trial believe that there are other factors which contributed to the observed link between diabetes and patients who were administered chemotherapy. For instance:

  • The types of drugs used to treat the nausea caused by chemotherapy, these are glucocorticoids, can often cause a spike in the patient’s blood sugar levels, otherwise known as acute hyperglycemia.

At this time, the research team has stated that they do not fully understand why breast cancer survivors possessed a higher risk of diabetes than other women from the same age group. In either case, the results of this medical research have emphasized the need to keep a keener eye out for diabetes among the survivors of breast cancer.

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