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Experts call for further research into the relationship between insulin therapy and cancer
Date:3/2/2010

ormin, which is used to treat some patients with diabetes, may provide a protective effect, while insulin and/or certain insulin analogues may promote tumour growth."

The review found that diabetes appears to be associated with an intrinsic increase in cancer incidence. A number of meta-analyses have been carried out, showing that:

  • Diabetic patients were 30 per cent more likely to develop colorectal cancer (15 studies covering 2.5 million patients).

  • Women with diabetes had a 20 per cent greater risk of developing breast cancer, according to 20 studies.

  • People with diabetes had an 82 per cent higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer (36 studies covering more than 9,000 patients).

"The excess risk of pancreatic cancer was highest among those who had only had diabetes a short time, suggesting that the cancer could cause the diabetes" says Professor Pollak. "However, the incidence of this cancer in people with a longer history of diabetes does suggest there may also be an intrinsic cancer risk from diabetes.

"It is also important to remember that diabetes is often associated with other illnesses and risk factors, such as obesity and physical inactivity, that may in themselves increase the cancer risk."

The authors are keen to point out that the current evidence is far from clear-cut and further research is needed to examine the risks and mechanisms that appear to link insulin with tumour growth.

"In the meantime, we agree with statements issued by the major diabetes organisations that there is no need to panic" says Professor Pollak. "Insulin has an excellent risk benefit ratio and any absolute risks between the different treatments are likely to be small.

"However, careful consideration of the choices available might be wise for patients who face a high biological risk of cancer, for example those with a family or personal history of cancer. Clinicians need to be prepare
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Contact: Annette Whibley
wizard.media@virgin.net
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert

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