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Diabetes Ups Death Risk Overall, Study Shows

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, March 2 (HealthDay News) -- People with diabetes are 80 percent more likely to die prematurely than those without the disease -- and it's not just diabetes that's killing them.

Besides dying from vascular problems caused by diabetes, people with the blood sugar disease are also more likely to die prematurely from many other causes, including cancer, infections, falls, liver disease, mental disorders and even suicide, a new British analysis finds.

"This study confirms that diabetes is associated with higher mortality," said Dr. Camillo Ricordi, director of the Cell Transplant Center and Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "There is a general attitude that diabetes is a treatable disease, that's it's no big deal, that you just take medicine and you have a normal life. Instead, you have a 2.5 increased rate of death."

The report is published in the March 3 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

For the study, a team lead by John Danesh, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at the University of Cambridge, analyzed deaths among 820,900 people who took part in 97 studies. Among those in these studies, 123,205 died.

In this method, called a meta-analysis, researchers look for patterns in data from a number of studies that confirm a hypothesis.

Danesh's team found that people with diabetes were 80 percent more likely to die prematurely than those without diabetes. Moreover, they were 25 percent more likely to die from cancer, with scientists finding a moderate association between the disease and death from liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, colorectal cancer, and lung, bladder or breast cancer.

The risk of dying from vascular disease, not surprisingly, was much higher in people with diabetes. But people with diabetes were also at increased risk for death from liver and kidney disease, pneumonia, other infectious diseases and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, among other ills.

In addition, diabetics were 64 percent more likely to die from mental disorders and 58 percent more likely to die from suicide, mostly because they were more likely to be depressed. They were also 70 percent more likely to die from falls than people without diabetes, the researchers found.

The risk of premature death was closely associated with blood sugar levels, with an excess risk of death at blood glucose fasting levels exceeding 100 milligrams per deciliter. There was no excess risk of death at fasting levels of 70 to 100 mg per dL, the researchers found.

"In addition to vascular disease, diabetes is associated with substantial premature death from several cancers, infectious diseases, external causes, intentional self-harm and degenerative disorders, independent of major risk factors," the study authors wrote. "These findings highlight the need to better understand and prevent the multi-system consequences of diabetes."

Ricordi said that although all the reasons that result in the greater risk of death among diabetics aren't known, high blood sugar and inflammation are key players. These can decrease the body's ability to fight off infections and even cancer, he said.

"We have to continue to find a cure and to prevent diabetes," he said. "We cannot think it can just be managed with drugs."

More information

For more on diabetes, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCES: Camillo Ricordi, M.D., distinguished professor and director, Cell Transplant Center and Diabetes Research Institute, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; March 3, 2011, New England Journal of Medicine

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