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Breast Cancer Survivors at Higher Risk for Diabetes

woman Dr talking with older female patientPost-menopausal women with breast cancer are more likely to develop diabetes than women without cancer, with a survivor’s risk varying depending upon her treatment, suggests a new study published in the journal Diabetologia.

Study researchers tracked the health of approximately 150,000 Canadian women ages 55 and over, from 1996 to 2008. About 25,000 of the women had been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. After an average follow-up of six years, 10 percent of all the women developed diabetes. Two years after diagnosis, the risk of diabetes among most breast cancer survivors began to increase when matched to the comparison women; the risk of diabetes was 7 percent higher at two years and rose to 21 percent higher after ten years.

But for the cancer survivors who underwent chemotherapy, almost the opposite relationship was seen. Among the approximately 4,000 patients who received chemotherapy the highest risk appeared in the first two years. The reasons for the observed link are unclear, the authors note; it could be related to the treatment or that the patients are monitored more closely.

Overall, this study suggests that postmenopausal breast cancer survivors may need more diabetes screening and prevention strategies, the authors conclude.

Research now suggests type 2 diabetes links to increased cancer risk. A 2010 consensus paper reported that people with type 2 diabetes are approximately twice as likely to get cancers of the liver, pancreas and endometrium. Risk of two of the most common cancers, post-menopausal breast and colorectal, is modestly increased with type 2 diabetes.

Source: L. L. Lipscombe & W. W. Chan & L. Yun & P. C. Austin & G. M. Anderson & P. A. Rochon. “Incidence of diabetes among postmenopausal breast cancer survivors.” Diabetologia.

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