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By Dr. Cory Couillard, Dominican Today health contributor

Yet another study has linked type 2 diabetes to an increased risk of developing breast and colon cancer. But until now, no research has shown diabetics to have a higher risk of dying from these cancers as well.

The Dutch study, “A meta-analysis on breast and colorectal cancer in diabetic patients: Higher incidences and mortality rates,” was recently presented at the 2013 European Cancer Congress.

Researchers analysed 20 scientific studies consisting of more than 1.9 million people between 2007 and 2012. They found diabetics to have a 23 per cent higher risk of developing breast cancer and a soaring 38 per cent risk of dying from it.

Moreover, diabetics had a 26 per cent higher risk of colon cancer and a 30 per cent risk of dying from that malignancy when compared to non-diabetics.

"The evidence is getting quite strong that there is an association between diabetes and cancer," said Kirstin De Bruijn, lead researcher at Erasmus University Medical Centre.

"Cancer patients who are obese and diabetic are an already more vulnerable group of individuals when it comes to surgery, as they have an increased risk of developing complications both during and after surgery.

"Worldwide, the numbers of obese and subsequent diabetic patients are still increasing and it is a cause for concern that these individuals are at a higher risk of developing cancer and dying from it.

"It is extremely important that prevention campaigns on obesity and diabetes are intensified and that they also focus on children, to prevent them from becoming obese and developing cancer later in life," De Bruijn concluded.

A person with diabetes should be able to lead an active, healthy life and reduce the risk of complications with proper self-care. Genetics may play a minor role in developing cancer, diabetes and obesity, but these conditions are largely due to an unhealthy diet and lifestyle.

According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), “physical activity is one of the main pillars in the prevention of diabetes. Increased physical activity is important in maintaining weight loss and is linked to reduced blood pressure, reduced resting heart rate, increased insulin sensitivity, improved body composition and psychological well-being.”

Aerobic exercise is the best form of exercise for the diabetic patient. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity activity on most days of the week.

Smoking can promote the development of diabetes by at least 30 per cent. Smoking is also one of the leading causes of cancer and premature death.

Unhealthy diets, especially the excessive consumption of energy, saturated fat, trans fat, salt and sugar could cause at least 40 per cent of all deaths from diabetes.

To prevent or reverse diabetes – reduce sugar intake, eliminate processed food items, reduce portion size and increase consumption of fruits and vegetables.

The classic symptoms of type 2 diabetes include increased thirst, hunger, frequent urination, excessive fatigue, blurred vision and pain or numbness in the feet or hands.

Unexplained darkened areas of skin are one of the few signs suggesting one is at risk of diabetes. Common areas that are affected include the neck, armpits, elbows, knees and knuckles.

Other symptoms can include bladder, kidney or other infections that occur more frequent or heal slowly. It is also common for men to experience erectile dysfunction.

If you present with any of these signs and symptoms, consult a health care professional immediately.

Dr Cory Couillard is an international health columnist that works in collaboration with the World Health Organization's goals of disease prevention and control. Views do not necessarily reflect endorsement.


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