Diabetes increases risk of death in breast cancer patients

Breast cancer patients are nearly 50 percent more likely to die of any cause if they also have diabetes, according to a comprehensive review of research conducted by Johns Hopkins physicians.

Peairs says her research suggests that diabetics diagnosed with breast cancer may get less effective treatment because practitioners may be concerned about these patients suffering more side effects from chemotherapy or radiation treatments as a result of the metabolic condition. Patients also may be more likely to be hospitalized, get infections, and/or become anemic ??” complicating their care. Peairs says the higher death rate may also be linked to the fact that they come to breast cancer treatment less healthy than their counterparts without diabetes, which is associated with obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Women with diabetes may also be at greater risk of chemotherapy-related toxicity, which may explain ??” and even justify ??” some of the less aggressive treatment, she says.

Peairs says more research should reveal whether increased insulin production in type 2 (adult onset) diabetics contributes to worse outcomes among diabetic breast cancer patients. Small studies suggest that some diabetes drugs may be associated with worse outcomes for cancer patients while other medications may actually improve survival.

She noted that the popular drug metformin, which makes diabetes patients more insulin-sensitive thereby lowering the amount of unused insulin in the body, may be associated with better survival outcomes.

SOURCE Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

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