A report at The San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, held Dec. 6-10, 2011, looked at cancer risks associated with having Diabetes or being Obese. The Swedish study has shown that Obesity or Diabetes after the age of 60 significantly increase the possibility of developing breast cancer.

Researchers also looked at the overall cancer rates and found one diabetes drug seems to lower cancer risk, while another raises it. Additional data showed patients with low blood lipid levels being associated with increased risk.

Data was collated from 1.5 million people living in Southwestern Sweden, which researchers say provides a comprehensive study of obesity and cancer risk.

Håkan Olsson, M.D., professor in the departments of oncology and cancer epidemiology at Lund University said :

“We are looking at everybody, and we found that diabetes in adult women and obesity in women aged 60 and older significantly increased breast cancer risk … This is useful information for women who want to know their risk and who can take steps to lower it.”

The data was narrowed down to nearly 3,000 patients up to 10 years before they were diagnosed with cancer, and an additional 20,000 patients who were cancer free. Women over 60 had a 55 percent higher chance of developing breast cancer if they were obese.

Olsson said at least 15 in every 100 obese women would eventually get breast cancer, an alarming statistic compared to 10% in the general population.

Diabetes showed a 37 percent additional risk up to four years preceding the cancer diagnosis, while women with lower blood lipids had a 25% increased risk.

Why blood lipids affect cancer rates is not clear, but higher blood lipids are conversely associated with a decreased cancer risk. Olsson said the studies need to be replicated in another population based study.

The two diabetes drugs that the scientists studied are : Glargine and Metformin. The former, Glargine, almost doubles the cancer risk, while the latter, Metformin, had an eight percent lower risk. Glargine was fingered in previous European studies as having a higher cancer risk.

Olsson’s study was funded by Sweden’s Southern Health Care Region and presented at The CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium

Written by Rupert Shepherd