Diabetes: Diabetic patients have an increased risk of colon cancer

Diabetes: Diabetic patients have an increased risk of colon cancer

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Study shows: Diabetes is a risk factor for early colon cancer

According to experts, around seven million people in Germany are affected by diabetes. So-called diabetes can lead to numerous concomitant and secondary diseases. In addition, diabetics have an increased risk of various types of cancer - including colorectal cancer, as researchers now report.

A study was published last year that showed a significant increase in colorectal cancer cases in people under 50 years of age. It is known that the risk of this cancer increases from this age. There is also an increased risk if the family has already had colon cancer. Diabetes is also a risk factor for colorectal cancer.

Higher risk of getting sick before the age of 50

In order to find out how high the risk of colon cancer is for people with diabetes, scientists analyzed the data of almost 13 million people.

According to a recent announcement, the researchers from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg have shown that diabetics have a risk of colon cancer that is comparable to that of people whose families have colon cancer.

In addition, people with diabetes have a higher risk of developing colon cancer before the age of 50.

The number of young sufferers is increasing

According to the experts, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer and the second most common cause of cancer death in Germany and worldwide. Scientists observe with particular concern that the number of young people suffering from colon cancer in particular continues to increase.

It is therefore becoming increasingly important to identify specific risk factors for colorectal cancer in young adults so that high-risk individuals can benefit from a preventive medical check-up earlier.

So far, women and men in Germany aged 50 and over have been entitled to measures for the early detection of colorectal cancer.

Common risk factors

Studies indicate that diabetics, especially people with type 2 diabetes, are at greater risk of developing colon cancer than the normal population.

Diabetes and colorectal cancer share some risk factors such as obesity, lack of exercise and metabolic factors.

"Until now, diabetes was not recognized as a recognized risk factor for early colon cancer and the connection between diabetes and familial colon cancer risk was still largely unknown," says Mahdi Fallah, head of the Risk-Adapted Prevention group in the Preventive Oncology Department of the DKFZ and at NCT Heidelberg.

Colon cancer risk increased in all age groups

In cooperation with colleagues from the University of Lund (Sweden), the Heidelberg researchers have therefore evaluated a total of 12.6 million data from Swedish citizens born after 1931, including those of their parents.

"The aim was to determine the risk of colorectal cancer, especially under 50 in diabetics with and without colorectal cancer patients in the family," explains Elham Kharazmi, co-leader of the study and scientist at the DKFZ and NCT Heidelberg.

According to the announcement, a total of 559,375 of the subjects examined had diabetes and 162,226 had colorectal cancer during the study period from 1964 to 2015.

The evaluation of this, the world's largest database of its kind, showed that the risk of colorectal cancer in all age groups was increased among diabetics. The risk of developing colorectal cancer at a young age was even as high in diabetic patients without relatives with colorectal cancer as in non-diabetic family members.

People with diabetes whose first-degree relatives were diagnosed with colorectal cancer were about 7 times more likely than the general population to develop colorectal cancer themselves under the age of 50.

The study results were published in the journal "The American Journal of Gastroenterology".

Regularly for checkups

The experts therefore recommend that people with diabetes take advantage of the opportunities for colorectal cancer detection in Germany, at the latest when they are 50 years old.

“Our study showed that diabetics have an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer before the age of 50. This is important to know in order to be able to offer these people a risk-adjusted colon cancer screening earlier in the future, ”says Fallah.

In addition, it is important to exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet. This, and also by reducing excess weight, avoiding alcohol and nicotine, can reduce the risk of cancer. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • National Center for Tumor Diseases Heidelberg: Diabetes mellitus: A risk factor for early colorectal cancer, (accessed: May 27, 2020), National Center for Tumor Diseases Heidelberg
  • U. Ali Khan, M. Fallah, Y. Tian, ​​K. Sundquist, J. Sundquist, H. Brenner, E. Kharazmi: Personal History of Diabetes as Important as Family History of Colorectal Cancer for Risk of Colorectal Cancer: A Nationwide Cohort Study; in: The American Journal of Gastroenterology, (published: 21.05.2020), The American Journal of Gastroenterology

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