Are diabetics at an increased risk for colorectal cancer?
This question has been a popular topic of conversation among researchers over the past ten years. Researchers agree that there appears to be a link between the two conditions, nominally that colorectal cancer rates are higher within populations of diabetic patients.
However, it is hard to draw a direct connection between the two diseases. Certainly diabetes does not cause colon cancer, yet some speculate that the increased levels of insulin in the bloodstream could fuel cancerous cell growth as it fuels the growth of other cells. Whatever the reason behind the connection, it is best for patients and physicians to consider the connection and move onto the more important question: what is to be done about diagnosis and treatment?
Colorectal Cancer Screening
Colorectal cancer rates have declined in the past several decades, largely thanks to the advanced screening techniques that doctors are now using to detect and treat the disease in its early stages. The most common screening technique is the colonoscopy.
This exam uses a colonoscope that is inserted through the anus to evaluate the lining of the large intestine, or colon. Using the colonoscope, the colon and rectal specialist can obtain biopsies, remove precancerous growths or polyps, all while projecting images of the colon to a large screen where your physician can view and evaluate the health of your colon and rectum.
Colonoscopy is an accepted standard screening procedure. Whether you are experiencing gastrointestinal discomfort or not, a colonoscopy is recommended for everyone at the age of 50. While many people receive with clean bill of health, other patients have small growths, or polyps, that require attention and monitoring.
After the age of 50, colonoscopies are generally recommended every five years. The exception of course being that if a condition was detected, in which a colonoscopy may be recommended more often.
Diabetics may benefit from earlier colon screenings more than the general public.
One team of researchers set out to evaluate the colon health of diabetic patients in comparison to their non-diabetic counterparts, and the findings added fuel to the conversation linking these two conditions.
A total of 375 adults were evaluated during this study. They were split in three groups based on their age and health category. The results were as follows:
- Of non-diabetics between 40 and 49, 14% were found to have at least one precancerous polyp
- Of diabetics between 40 and 49, 30% were found to have at least one precancerous polyp
- Of non-diabetics between 50 and 59, 32% were found to have at least one precancerous polyp
The rate of polyps found among diabetics under the age of 50 is equal to that of non-diabetics who are 50 years old or older. If 50 is the beginning age for all adults to go through colorectal cancer screening, it might be a good idea for patients with diabetes to begin screening 10 years earlier, at the age of 40.
If you are diabetic, in your 40’s and have not yet had a colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer, then it may be a good idea to talk with your colon and rectal specialist about the benefits of advanced screening.