Type 2 diabetes severely heightens risk of dementia, cancer: Study

May 25, 2020
Around 1.3 million Australians are currently living with type 2 diabetes. Source: Getty.

New research from Melbourne’s Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute suggests Australians living with type 2 diabetes are 60 per cent more likely to develop dementia, and twice as likely to develop some types of cancer, than those without the condition. Around 1.3 million Australians are currently living with type 2 diabetes.

As part of the analysis titled ‘The Dark Shadow of Type 2 Diabetes’, researchers examined the health outcomes of more than 2 million people diagnosed with the condition. The report’s lead author Professor Jonathan Shaw said having diabetes increased the risk of various other diseases.

Besides dementia, he said those living with type 2 diabetes were two to three times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer and twice as likely to develop liver or endometrial cancer. They also had a 50 per cent higher chance of getting bowel cancer and a 20 per cent greater risk of breast cancer.

“Increased cancer risk is of particular concern for the growing number of people under 40 living with type 2 diabetes,” he said. “This group saw a significant increase in deaths from cancer between 2000 and 2011.”

Professor Shaw said heart disease was also a leading cause of death among those living with type 2 diabetes, adding: “People with type 2 diabetes are up to eight times more likely to suffer from heart failure, compared to those without diabetes.”

The report also found that those with type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (build-up of extra fat in liver cells), are 10 times more likely to develop kidney failure and are at a higher risk of developing diabetic retinopathy (an eye condition that causes vision loss and blindness in people who have diabetes). Meanwhile, a wide range of other diseases like depression, osteoporosis, sleep apnoea, hearing impairment and gum disease, are also more common in people with diabetes.

Professor Shaw finished off saying that it’s super important those living with type 2 diabetes are supported. “It’s vital that all those who could benefit from newer medications are receiving them whenever possible,” he said.

“With the burden of diabetes complications in our community casting such a long shadow – in terms of death rates, disability and impact on the health system — we need greater education and support for those living with diabetes, as well as their GPs. In addition to controlling blood sugar levels, it is essential Australians living with type 2 diabetes are supported to keep blood pressure and cholesterol at healthy levels.”

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