Breast Cancer and Diabetes

A new analysis from Johns Hopkins University shows that women with diabetes are 50 percent more likely to die if they have breast cancer. Why? The challenges of diabetes management play a role, as well as women’s overall health.

According to Kimberly Peairs, an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the study’s lead author, “When patients are faced with a diagnosis of breast cancer, which they see as an imminent threat to their lives, diabetes care often goes on the back burner.”

The study, published in last month’s issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, showed that diabetic women faced multiple problems. They were more likely to be diagnosed with an advanced form of breast cancer. And because of their pre-existing illness, they were more likely to be treated with less effective drugs or suffer from toxic side effects of chemotherapy.

But that’s not all. As is often the case with diabetes, an array of risk factors are par for the course.

Type 2s are more likely to suffer from a constellation of health problems, including obesity and high blood pressure, research shows, along with a higher breast cancer risk. That overall health picture could contribute to their increased death rate, Peairs said.

“This research suggests we may need to proactively treat the diabetes as well as the cancer,” she said.

Where do researchers go from here? They may look at how insulin levels affect tumor growth. They’re also interested in seeing if improvements in diabetic control can also improve cancer outcomes.

The study was a meta-analysis of previously published studies that collected data about patients dealing with cancer and diabetes, and the outcomes of those illnesses. It was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society, among others.





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