Type 2 Diabetes Patients Can Add Cancer of the Blood to Their List of Worries
Researchers say preventing diabetes can lower the incidence of leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma
Jorge Castillo, M.D., a hematologist/oncologist
with The Miriam Hospital - see video below
June 5, 2012 - Patients with type 2 diabetes have a 20 percent increased risk of developing blood cancers, such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma,
leukemia and myeloma, according to a new meta-analysis led by researchers at The Miriam Hospital. The findings, published online in the
journal Blood, the journal of the American Society of Hematology, add to the growing evidence linking diabetes and certain types of
“I think when most people think about diabetes-related illnesses, they think of heart disease or kidney failure, but not
necessarily cancer,” said lead author Jorge Castillo, M.D., a hematologist/oncologist with The Miriam Hospital.
“But when you consider that more than 19 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes – not to mention the
millions more who are either undiagnosed or will be diagnosed in the future – a 20 percent increased risk of blood cancer is quite
While diabetes has been previously associated with other types of cancer, such as liver and pancreatic cancer, there have
been few connections to blood cancers. Researchers are still unclear what causes the vast majority of these malignancies, which include
cancers of the blood, bone marrow, and lymph nodes and affect more than 100,000 Americans each year.
Castillo and colleagues analyzed 26 previously published research articles on the association between type 2 diabetes –
the most common form of the disease – and the incidence of lymphoma, leukemia and myeloma. The meta-analysis included more than 17,000 cases
of type 2 diabetes and blood cancer worldwide.
They concluded patients with type 2 diabetes have increased odds of developing leukemia, myeloma and non-Hodgkin
lymphoma, as well as a subtype of non-Hodgkin lymphoma known as peripheral T-cell lymphoma. They did not find any associations with Hodgkin
Interestingly, researchers also say the odds of lymphoma, leukemia and myeloma appear to differ depending on the
geographic region of the original report. For example, the odds of non-Hodgkin lymphoma were higher in Asia and Europe, while there was an
increased leukemia risk in the United States and Asia.
Although the study did not identify a cause for any of these associations, the findings suggest type 2 diabetes could be
associated with approximately five percent of all incidents of leukemia, myeloma non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
“It’s important to remember that type 2 diabetes can, to some degree, be prevented and controlled through lifestyle
modification, such as diet and exercise,” Castillo said. “So by preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes, we could also prevent blood cancer.”
The researchers say additional studies are needed to explain the potential relationship between type 2 diabetes and blood
cancers. In particular, Castillo believes future research should focus on the role of behavioral factors like obesity, physical activity and
smoking, which have been linked to both diabetes and cancer.
Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Center for Research Resources of the National
Institutes of Health under award number UL1RR025752, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and The Marilyn Fishman Grant
for Diabetes Research from the Endocrine Fellows Foundation. Study co-authors include Nihkil Mull, M.D., John L. Reagan, M.D., and Saed Nemr,
M.D., from The Miriam Hospital and Joanna Mitri, M.D., from Tufts Medical Center.
Links to Archived Reports on Diabetes
Should YOU be tested for diabetes?
Anyone 45 years old or older should consider getting tested for diabetes. If you are 45 or older and overweight-see the
BMI chart -getting tested is strongly recommended. If you are younger than 45,
overweight, and have one or more of the
risk factors, you should consider getting tested. Ask your doctor for a fasting
blood glucose test or an oral glucose tolerance test. Your doctor will tell you if you have normal blood glucose, prediabetes, or diabetes.
● Among U.S. residents ages 65 years and older, 10.9 million, or 26.9 percent, had diabetes in 2010.
● Diabetes affects 25.8 million people of all ages - 8.3 percent of the U.S. population
> DIAGNOSED - 18.8 million people
●> UNDIAGNOSED - 7.0 million people
● About 215,000 people younger than 20 years had diabetes—type 1 or type 2—in the United States in 2010.
● About 1.9 million people ages 20 years or older were newly diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 in the United States.
● In 2005–2008, based on fasting glucose or hemoglobin A1C (A1C) levels, 35 percent of U.S. adults ages 20 years or
older had prediabetes - 50 percent of adults ages 65 years or older. Applying this percentage to the entire U.S. population in 2010 yields an
estimated 79 million American adults ages 20 years or older with prediabetes.
● Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, nontraumatic lower-limb amputations, and new cases of blindness
among adults in the United States.
● Diabetes is a major cause of heart disease and stroke.
● Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.