Is Kidney Cancer Linked to Diabetes?

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Currently, diabetes has not been scientifically confirmed as a common risk factor of kidney cancer. But a few studies show that it might have a role to increase the risk.


For example, diabetes might increase the risk of some cancers such as cancers of kidney, pancreas, liver, and endometrium – according to an Australian study in 2014.

The close follow-up, given right after the diagnosis of diabetes might be the reason of why this increased cancer risk seen. But this is not the final answer – more studies are required. If diabetes does have an effect, researchers believe that there are particular reasons of why this occurs.

What takes more attention is type-2 diabetes. There may be strong link between type-2 and cancer. The link remains more puzzling for type-1. This is because more studies have looked at type-2 specifically. Type-1 is less common and more likely to be found in young people. And cancer is not common in young people.

Unfortunately, the many large studies done for type-2 still cannot determine definitely whether diabetes is a cause of cancer. One of challenging things, it’s difficult to rule out that a trait (like obesity or older age) increases the risk for both conditions. That would mean cancer and diabetes would also be likely to develop together without one condition causing the other.

Although this link is not fully known, some possible explanations have been proposed.

  1. While particular traits make it more difficult to learn the link of both diseases, but these same risk factors may also be one of the possible answers. The two conditions share some same risk factors such as obesity, older age, smoking, and alcohol.
  2. High blood sugar may have a role, too. In diabetes, poorly-controlled high blood sugar is the main culprit for diabetic complications to occur. And it may trigger a cancer because cancer cells also run on glucose to thrive and grow. Cancer cells can absorb glucose in the bloodstream with no need for insulin.
  3. Diabetics, as well as those with obesity, show signs of chronic inflammation with elevated levels of some molecules in the blood associated with the increased risk of certain types of cancer. This suggests that inflammation may link obesity, diabetes, and cancer.

In addition, another thing to blame may be insulin resistant that drives up insulin production. Too high insulin levels might become a growth factor for cancerous tumor, according to a study in animal models. But the link between cancer and insulin taken as a diabetic medication is not known.

The body’s insulin is made and released by pancreas, which is then also delivered to the liver. If too high levels of the body’s insulin are to blame, these two organs are more susceptible to cancer. It’s not known whether this also play a part to cause kidney cancer.

Citations /references:

  1. Harding, J. Diabetes Care – released online, 2014


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