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Type 2 Diabetes Worsens Breast Cancer Prognosis

Posted Jun 23 2010 8:01am
Type 2 diabetes and breast cancer are two health conditions that share some of the same risk factors and pathways including obesity, changes in insulin-like growth factors, steroid hormone changes, and changes in inflammatory chemicals produced by fat cells.  In fact some research studies suggest that type 2 diabetes is linked to a 20-30% increased risk for developing breast cancer. 

The impact of type 2 diabetes on breast cancer outcomes is of particular interest because it has been reported that about 15-20% of breast cancer patients have type 2 diabetes, while more likely go undiagnosed.  A new breast cancer research study used data collected from 3,003 women with a history of early stage breast cancer who took part in a larger breast cancer study.  For this new study, glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) levels were used to determine diabetes status with levels between 6.5-6.9% indicating high risk for diabetes and levels of 7.0% and above indicating type 2 diabetes.  Analysis of the relationships between type 2 diabetes and breast cancer outcomes in this population of women with a history of breast cancer showed that
  • Hb1Ac levels higher than 6.5% (high risk for type 2 diabetes) were associated with obesity and more advanced breast cancer upon diagnosis.
  • Women with type 2 diabetes were about 2.4 times more likely to die from any cause.
  • Breast cancer-free survival was reduced with increasing levels of Hb1Ac
These study results show the negative impact that type 2 diabetes can have on breast cancer.  Breast cancer patients who also had type 2 diabetes or were at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes generally had more advanced breast cancer and were at slightly greater risk for breast cancer recurrence.  The interaction between type 2 diabetes and breast cancer risk appears to be very complex .  Interestingly, it has been reported that breast cancer treatment drugs can effect glucose metabolism, while some type 2 diabetes drugs like metformin have been reported to decrease breast cancer risk .  More well-designed human studies will need to be done to clarify this potentially important interaction between type 2 diabetes and breast cancer.

Both type 2 diabetes and breast cancer risk can be reduced with appropriate diet and exercise.  To learn about my 7-day prescription for healthier breasts, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer .
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