Diabetes and cancer: Epidemiological and biological links

Bladder Cancer

Wang M, et al. World J Diabetes 2020 - Review.


The incidence of diabetes and cancer has increased significantly in recent years. Furthermore, there are many common risk factors for both diabetes and cancer, such as obesity, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and ageing. A large body of epidemiological evidence has indicated that diabetes is considered as an independent risk factor for increased rates of heterogeneous types of cancer occurrence and death. The incidence and mortality of various types of cancer, such as pancreas, liver, colorectal,

breast, endometrial, and bladder cancers, have a modest growth in diabetics. However, diabetes may work as a protective factor for prostate cancer. Although the underlying biological mechanisms have not been totally understood, studies have validated that insulin/insulin-like growth factor (IGF) axis (including insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, and IGF), hyperglycemia, inflammatory cytokines, and sex hormones provide good circumstances for cancer cell proliferation and metastasis. Insulin/IGF axis activates several metabolic and mitogenic signaling pathways; hyperglycemia provides energy for cancer cell growth; inflammatory cytokines influence cancer cell apoptosis. Thus, these three factors affect all types of cancer, while sex hormones only play important roles in breast cancer, endometrial cancer, and prostate cancer. This minireview consolidates and discusses the epidemiological and biological links between diabetes and various types of cancer.