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Another Study Finds Diabetes Seems to Up Breast Cancer Risk

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Another study has found that women diagnosed with diabetes were more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than women who aren’t diabetic. The study also suggests that diabetic women diagnosed with breast cancer have a higher risk of dying from breast cancer than women who aren’t diabetic.

The research, “A meta-analysis on breast and colorectal cancer in diabetic patients: Higher incidences and mortality rates,” was presented on Sept. 27, 2013 at the 2013 European Cancer Congress.

This Dutch study was a meta-analysis – a study that combines and analyzes the results of many earlier studies. In this case, the results of more than 1.9 million people in 20 research studies published between 2007 and 2012 were analyzed.

The researchers found that people with diabetes had a 23% higher risk of developing breast cancer and were 38% more likely to die from breast cancer than people who didn’t have diabetes.

Diabetics also had a 26% higher risk of colon cancer and a 30% higher risk of dying from that disease compared to people who weren’t diabetics.

Other research has shown links between breast cancer risk and both diabetes and obesity. Doctors aren't sure exactly why having diabetes or being obese increases breast cancer risk. Higher insulin levels may be part of the reason. The hormone insulin helps our bodies regulate blood sugar. Insulin also helps cells grow. Many people who have diabetes and many older obese people tend to have higher-than-normal insulin levels (hyperinsulinemia). This is partially because their bodies no longer respond to normal insulin levels. Some experts think that higher insulin levels in diabetics and/or obese people may help breast cancer cells develop and grow, which increases breast cancer risk.

While your genetics play a role in developing both diabetes and obesity, these problems are due to an unhealthy diet and lifestyle in many people: too much sugar and too many simple carbohydrates, combined with not enough exercise. No matter your age, one of the best ways to avoid both obesity and diabetes AND help keep your breast cancer risk as low as it can be is to have a healthy diet and lifestyle:

  • eat a diet low in added sugar and processed foods and rich in fruits and vegetables
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • exercise regularly at a moderate intensity
  • avoid alcohol
  • don't smoke

A healthy diet and lifestyle can help you minimize both your breast cancer risk AND your risk of cardiovascular problems, such as heart attack and stroke.

Visit the Lower Your Risk section to learn more about breast cancer risk and steps you can take to make yours as low as it can be.

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