Type 2 Diabetes and Cancer: What Is the Connection?



Epidemiological studies have demonstrated an association between type 2 diabetes and cancer. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia. Hyperinsulinemia may lead to cancer through insulin's effect on its cognate receptor and the insulin-like growth factor system. The effects of insulin and insulin-like growth factor I on cancer development and progression have been demonstrated in animal and human studies. Type 2 diabetes has been positively associated with cancers of the breast, colon, and pancreas. An inverse relationship has been observed between type 2 diabetes and prostate cancer, and this may be due to lower testosterone levels in men with type 2 diabetes. Medications used to treat type 2 diabetes may affect cancer cells directly or indirectly by affecting serum insulin levels. Hyperinsulinemia may be an important risk factor for cancer as well as a target for cancer therapy. Mt Sinai J Med 77:197–213, 2010. © 2010 Mount Sinai School of Medicine