Cancer is now the top cause of death if you have diabetes.

Adapted from Cancer replaces heart disease and stroke as leading cause of death in people with diabetes. Pearson-Stuttard J et al. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol 4 Feb 2021 and Six adiposity markers predict incidence and mortality for 24 cancers. Parra-Soto S et al BMC Med 11 Jan 2021

People with type one and two diabetes have been told for decades that cardiovascular disease in the form of heart attacks and strokes are the most likely way that the Grim Reaper is likely to call on them. New research however shows that cancer is now the leading cause of death.

The study was conducted by Imperial College London. Between 2001 and 2018 the cardiovascular causes have been superceded by cancer as the main diagnosis causing death in a total of nearly 314 thousand people.

Also, the death rates are a third less than previously, so diabetics were living longer, and dying of cancer instead of cardiovascular disease. Other causes that were still fatal included dementia, liver disease and respiratory disease. These were more common in the diabetic population compared to the non diabetic population.

People with diabetes still tended to die at earlier ages than the general population, but the gap is narrowing. Dementia and liver disease were twice as high compared to the general population for instance.

The lead author Dr Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard said, ” Improvements in risk factors such as smoking and blood pressure, along with improvements in medical treatments have contributed to large falls in deaths from heart disease and stroke. The improvements have been even greater in those with diabetes. This has resulted in vascular conditions accounting for around 25 percent of all deaths in those with diabetes compared to 45 per cent 20 years ago.”

” In contrast improvements in cancer death rates have been much more modest, with improvements in those with diabetes lagging behind the general population. Added to this, the UK lags behind the EU in terms of cancer survival rates.”

The authors want people to know that if they have diabetes they have higher rates of cancer, dementia and liver disease compared to the general population.

If you are overweight the cancers that you are more likely to get, in no particular order, are:

Stomach, oesophageal, gallbladder, liver, kidney, pancreas, bladder, colorectal, endometrial, uterine, breast, lymphatic, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

My comment: Although this is not the most cheerful of posts, the good news is that diabetics are living long enough to die of diseases of older age such as cancer and dementia.

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