Can pre-diabetes raise cancer risk?

Blood glucose meter and finger with blood from Shutterstock
Blood glucose meter and finger with blood from Shutterstock

Having pre-diabetes may increase a person's risk for cancer, researchers report.

The researchers analysed 16 studies that included nearly 900,000 people from around the world and found that people with pre-diabetes had a 15 percent overall increased risk of cancer. People with pre-diabetes have blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered full-blown diabetes.

The review also revealed significant associations between pre-diabetes and specific types of cancer, including stomach, colorectal, liver, pancreas, breast and endometrial cancers.

There was no link between pre-diabetes and lung, prostate, ovarian, kidney or bladder cancers, according to the study published in the journal Diabetologia.

Major public health impact

The study found an association but not a cause-and-effect relationship between pre-diabetes and certain cancers. However, the findings have important health implications, said the researchers, noting that rates of pre-diabetes and diabetes are rising in many developing and developed nations. For example, the rate of pre-diabetes among Americans aged 18 and older rose from 29 percent in 1999-2002 to 36 percent in 2007-10.

Read: For pre-diabetics, just 2000 steps a day cuts heart attack risk

"Considering the high prevalence of pre-diabetes, as well as the robust and significant association between pre-diabetes and cancer demonstrated in our study, successful intervention in this large population could have a major public health impact," study leader Yuli Huang, a professor from the First People's Hospital of Shunde District, China, and colleagues said in a journal news release.

Diabetes drug protects against cancer

The study authors said the diabetes drug metformin is believed to help protect against cancer. "Notably, metformin mediates an approximately 30 percent reduction in the lifetime risk of cancer in diabetic patients," the researchers said in the news release.

Read: High-protein diet may up cancer and diabetes risk

It's unknown whether metformin would reduce cancer risk in people with pre-diabetes, and large-scale and long-term studies are needed to determine if that's the case, the study authors said.

Read more:

Adults born in famine show higher pre-diabetes risk
Facts about pre-diabetes
Young, beautiful and pre-diabetic

Image: Blood glucose meter and finger with blood from Shutterstock

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