UK study finds link between bowel cancer and diabetes

June 9, 2004

Brussels, 08 Jun 2004

A UK study that looked into whether abnormal glucose metabolism increases the risk of bowel cancer has found that people with diabetes could be three times more likely to develop this type of cancer.

The UK arm of the 'European Prospective Investigation into Cancer' tested 9,600 men and women between the ages of 45 and 79 and then checked their medical condition six years later. By then, 67 had developed bowel cancer. These were the people with the highest blood sugar levels. Scientists calculated they have three times the risk of people with the lowest blood sugar levels of developing bowel cancer.

The lead researcher in the study, professor Kay-Tee Khaw of the University of Cambridge, explained that 'the study shows that high sugar levels, even when they are below those of diagnosed diabetes, could be linked to increased risk of bowel cancer. More research is needed but if the results of our study are confirmed they would be important in developing prevention strategies.'

The study also found that the trend was stronger in men than in women. Indeed, incidence rates of bowel cancer in men have increased by one per cent a year over the last 20 years.

'The research is providing potential in terms of identifying future treatments and potential for screening,' said professor Khaw, adding that 'we think there are common lifestyle factors that appear to predispose to both diabetes and to colorectal cancer, such as diet or physical activity.'

It is estimated that around two-thirds of cases could be avoided by changes to diet, including eating more fibre, and less fat.

Professor Robert Souhami from Cancer Research UK, which jointly funded the project with the Medical Research Council, said: 'Colorectal cancer is one of most common cancers and is the second most common cause of cancer death. This puts it at the top of the research agenda and any information that helps formulate prevention strategies is welcome.'

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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