Obesity and diabetes cause 800,000 cancers a year

Obesity and diabetes cause around 800,000 cancers a year, with women being nearly twice as likely to suffer as men, new research reveals.

Carrying too much weight resulted in 544,300 cancer cases worldwide in 2012, while diabetes caused 280,100 incidences; together making up nearly six per cent of global cases, according to the first study of its kind.

If obesity and type 2 diabetes rates continue to rise, the two conditions could be responsible for up to 30 per cent of cancers around the world in 2035, researchers predict.

Being overweight is linked to cancer as excess fat causes the release of hormones that affect how cells work, however, diabetes’ association to the disease is less well understood.

It is thought diabetes’ inflammatory-effects, as well as its impact on insulin and blood sugar levels, may play a role.  

Obesity and diabetes cause 800,000 cancers a year, with women being nearly twice as at risk


Cancer patients who opt for alternative medicines over conventional treatment are two-and-a-half times more likely to die within five years of diagnosis, research revealed in August.

Among breast cancer sufferers, those who rely on herbs, homeopathy or energy crystals to beat their disease are 5.68 times more at risk of an early death, a study by Yale School of Medicine found.

While 41 percent of those receiving conventional treatment for lung cancer survive for at least five years, only 20 percent of those opting for alternative medicines do so, the research adds.

Professor John Bridgewater, an oncologist at University College London Hospital, who was not involved in the study, said: ‘Many patients will often go on special diets, rather than having conventional treatment.

‘But we have no evidence that anyone benefits from these diets, apart from those that collect the fees.’ 

‘Diabetes is responsible for hundreds of thousands of cancer cases each year’ 

Researchers from Imperial College London analysed the data of 12 different types of cancer along with BMI and diabetes information from 175 countries in 2012. 

Results reveal excess weight and diabetes together account for a quarter of all liver cancers and a third of endometrial cancers, which affects the lining of the womb.

Nearly 30 per cent of breast cancers affecting women are thought to be caused by diabetes and carrying too much weight, with the two conditions also often leading to endometrial cancer, the study found.

In men, obesity and diabetes most commonly cause liver cancer, followed by bowel cancer.

Lead researcher Dr Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard said: ‘While obesity has been associated with cancer for some time, the link between diabetes and cancer has only been established quite recently.

‘Our study shows that diabetes, either on its own or combined with being overweight, is responsible for hundreds of thousands of cancer cases each year across the world.’  

‘It’s vital people reduce their risk’ 

Dr Pearson-Stuttard added: ‘Both clinical and public health efforts should focus on identifying effective preventive, control and screening measures to structurally alter our environment, such as increasing the availability and affordability of healthy foods, and reducing the consumption of unhealthy foods.

‘It is vital that co-ordinated polices are implemented to tackle the shared risk factors and complications of chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes.’

Dr Emily Burns, from the charity Diabetes UK, said: ‘Diabetes doesn’t directly cause cancer, but this study adds to the evidence that having diabetes can increase [the] risk of certain types of cancer.  

‘With almost 12 million people in the UK at risk of type 2 diabetes, it’s vital that people are supported to reduce their risk. 

‘You can lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes and cancer by maintaining a healthy weight, eating well, keeping active, not smoking and sticking to the recommended alcohol consumption guidelines.’ 

The study’s findings were published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.  

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