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Type 2 diabetes and risk of cancer

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 02 January 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:g7707
  1. Ambika Satija, doctoral student1,
  2. Donna Spiegelman, professor2,
  3. Edward Giovannucci, professor2,
  4. Frank B Hu, professor2
  1. 1Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA
  2. 2Departments of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA
  1. Correspondence to: Frank B Hu{at}

Strong evidence points to an association between diabetes and several major cancers

Over the past 50 years, numerous studies have linked diabetes, in particular type 2 diabetes, to an increased risk of cancer. In 2010, a consensus report by the American Diabetes Association and American Cancer Society concluded that type 2 diabetes is convincingly associated with an increased risk for several cancers (colorectal, breast, endometrial, liver, pancreatic, and bladder), while the evidence is less conclusive for others (such as kidney cancer, leukemia, and esophageal cancer).1

In a linked article, Tsilidis and colleagues (doi:10.1136/bmj.g7607) present an umbrella review of 27 meta-analyses summarizing the associations between type 2 diabetes and cancer.2 This review represents one of the most comprehensive efforts to summarize an important, albeit complex, question in epidemiology. In their review, Tsilidis and colleagues confirmed robust associations between type 2 diabetes and the risk of breast, colorectal, intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, and endometrial cancer. For most other cancer sites, however, they concluded that the associations with type 2 diabetes were not convincing, despite clinically and statistically significant summary estimates from the meta-analyses. A main reason for this largely negative conclusion is the use of a number …

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