Advanced breast cancer more likely in older women at risk of developing type 2 diabetes

March 29, 2016

The researchers say women who have the risk factors commonly associated with type 2 diabetes such as being overweight and insulin resistant, also have a much greater risk of being diagnosed with an advanced breast cancer.

The research due to be presented this week at a conference in Brisbane, has found that women who were overweight or had signs such as elevated blood glucose or insulin levels - were about 50 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with an advanced breast cancer tumour.

The research which was part of an international study will be presented this week to the Population Health 2008 Conference in Queensland.

Dr. Anne Cust from the University of Melbourne who was one of the collaborators on the international study says that previous research has shown a strong link between being overweight and increased breast cancer risk in post menopausal women.

Dr. Cust says this study is the first to demonstrate the influence of insulin resistance on the stage of cancer diagnosis.

Dr. Cust says women with insulin resistance or who were overweight were less likely to be diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancers but at greater risk of being diagnosed with stage 2 to 4 tumours which are larger more advanced cancers.

For the study the researchers tracked more than 60,000 Swedish women over a 20-year-period from 1985 to 2005..... all were cancer free when recruited.

Over the study period their blood was tested for glucose, insulin and other hormones associated with obesity and diabetes risk.

Dr. Cust says while it is known that being overweight and having insulin resistance is a risk factor for getting cancer, this study indicates, in the case of breast cancer, that the cancer will be more advanced.

Dr. Cust says the research findings come at a significant time when there are major public health concerns about obesity and type 2 diabetes rates.

"Keeping a food diary doesn't have to be a formal thing. Just the act of scribbling down what you eat on a Post-it note, sending yourself e-mails tallying each meal, or sending yourself a text message will suffice. It's the process of reflecting on what you eat that helps us become aware of our habits, and hopefully change our behavior," says Keith Bachman, MD, a Weight Management Initiative member. "Every day I hear patients say they can't lose weight. This study shows that most people can lose weight if they have the right tools and support. And food journaling in conjunction with a weight management program or class is the ideal combination of tools and support."

The study, coordinated by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, also was conducted at Duke University Medical Center, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, and Johns Hopkins University. In addition to Hollis and Stevens, the Kaiser Permanente research team included William M. Vollmer, Ph.D.; Cristina M. Gullion, Ph.D.; Kristine Funk, M.S.; and Daniel Laferriere, MR. Other study co-authors included Phillip J. Brantley, Ph.D. and Catherine M. Champagne, Ph.D. at Pennington; Jamy D. Ard, MD, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; Thomas P. Erlinger, MD, MPH, at the University of Texas; Lawrence J. Appel, M.D., and Arlene Dalcin at Johns Hopkins; Pao-Hwa Lin, Ph.D., and Laura P. Svetkey, MD, at Duke University; Carmen Samuel-Hodge, Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Catherine M. Loria, Ph.D., at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and National Institutes of Health.

Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research, founded in 1964, is a nonprofit research institution dedicated to advancing knowledge to improve health. It has research sites in Portland, Ore., Honolulu, Hawaii and Atlanta.