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Cancer survivors at higher risk of diabetes: study
  • By Marian Chu
  • Published 2018.06.08 14:57
  • Updated 2018.06.08 14:57
  • comments 0

Although the advent of new anticancer drugs and cutting-edge treatment has led to more people surviving cancer, a new study is pointing out that cancer survivors may be at higher risk of diabetes.

Long-term survival of cancer patients in Korea has been increasing due to the advances in early diagnosis and treatment with around 1.61 million cancer patients completing or receiving anticancer therapies in 2015.

About 210,000 people are diagnosed with cancer annually in Korea.

Against this backdrop, specialists have been calling for not just better cancer treatment but also better quality of life for cancer survivors. Management of chronic complications such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease is especially important, based on findings from a new study, the NCC said.

The large-scale cohort study found cancer survivors face a 35 percent higher risk of diabetes than people who had not had cancer.

By carcinoma, people with pancreatic cancer had the highest likelihood of getting diabetes - being 5.15 times more likely to get the chronic illness than a person who did not have cancer.

Kidney cancer patients had the second highest risk by being 2.06 times more likely to get diabetes, followed by liver cancer patients (1.95 times), gallbladder cancer patients (1.79 times), lung cancer patients (1.74 times), blood cancer patients (1.61 times), breast cancer patients (1.60 times), gastric cancer patients (1.35 times), and thyroid cancer patients (1.33 times).

“Because the pancreas is the organ that secretes insulin, pancreatic cancer has the highest probability of leading to diabetes development,” said Dr. Hwang Bo-yul, clinical specialist at National Cancer Center.

Findings showed patients were at highest risk of getting diabetes within two years of diagnosis.

The study was conducted by a four-person research group, which also included National Cancer Center’s Chief of Department of Laboratory Medicine Kong Sun-young and clinical specialist Hwang Bo-yul who worked with Samsung Medical Center’s Dr. Kang Dan-bee and Professor Cho Ju-hee from the Biostatistics and Clinical Epidemiology Center.

(From left) Cho Ju-hee, Kong Sun-young, Hwang Bo-yul, Kang Dan-bee

Findings were published in the recent issue of JAMA Oncology, the sister publication of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The researchers compared the incidence of type 2 diabetes in two groups that either had or did not have anticancer treatment for over seven years in a national cohort with 500,000 people.

As for the cause of diabetes incidence, researchers noted that a variety of factors attributable to cancer or cancer treatment could serve as reasons.

“High-dose steroids or some anti-cancer drugs commonly used during chemotherapy directly lead to hyperglycemia. In particular, targeted therapies and immunotherapies, which are growing in number, can also cause diabetes,” Hwang said.

The team also noted that the significant risk factors for diabetes, which are obesity, the lack of exercise, overeating, tobacco and alcohol, are also risk factors for cancer.

“The study confirmed that cancer patients might be particularly vulnerable to chronic diseases such as diabetes. Since the number of cancer survivors is expected to grow, social attention and support are needed to help them maintain a healthy life after treatment,” Professor Cho said.

This study was conducted with funding from the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Cancer Cure Research and Development Project.


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