A recent study has found that people who have diabetes are more vulnerable to colon cancer.

The Study

Dr. Donald Garrow, a clinical instructor and a masters in clinical research fellow at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, and his team analyzed data on more than 226,000 Americans that was collected as part" of the National Health Interview Survey.

Most diabetics surveyed in the study had obesity-linked type 2 diabetes, in which the body becomes insensitive to insulin. After compensating for factors that affect colon cancer risk including age, gender, alcohol and tobacco use, and exercise-the researchers found that diabetics were 1.4 times more likely to develop colon cancer than nondiabetics.

Other studies have found the same association, Garrow says, but he believes his study is the largest cross-sectional survey to date. Exactly why diabetics have a greater risk of developing colon cancer isn't clear, Garrow says. One theory is that elevated insulin levels in diabetics' blood cause cells in the colon's mucosal lining to develop into cancer cells, he explains.


Dr. Kevin Adgent, an internist in Wilmington, North Carolina, praises the study's large sample size, and says the findings "make me more aware of getting my diabetic patients screened properly."

Garrow says the study underscores the importance of diabetics following colon cancer screening guidelines. The American Cancer Society now recommends that beginning at age 50, men and women at average risk for colon cancer should be screened using the fecal occult blood ,test (FOBT), sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy, and/or double barium enema.

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