Diabetes seems to pose more problems than known. A new, long-term study has shown that type 2 diabetes puts people at higher risk of developing liver cancer.
According to the research, people with type 2 diabetes are at three times greater risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), which is the most common type of liver cancer- as compared to those without diabetes.
The researchers suspect race and ethnicity also to play a part in increasing the odds of liver cancer. Among the participants of the study, 26 percent of liver cases attributed to diabetes were recorded in Latinos, 20 percent in Hawaiians, 13 percent in blacks and 12 percent in Japanese-Americans. Among whites, the rate was 6 percent.
It's possible that the increased risk of liver cancer could be associated with the medications people with diabetes take to control their blood sugar, said Dr. James D'Olimpio, an oncologist at Monter Cancer Center in Lake Success, N.Y. "Some medications are known to inhibit normal suppression of cancer," he said.
"Some of the drugs already have [U.S. Food and Drug Administration-ordered] black box warnings for bladder cancer," D'Olimpio said. "It's not a stretch to think there might be other relationships between diabetes drugs and pancreatic or liver cancer. Diabetes is already associated with a high risk of developing pancreatic cancer."
Still, the risk of developing liver cancer remains low, experts said. Yet the actual risk of liver cancer -- even for those with type 2 diabetes -- is still extraordinarily low, said Dr. David Bernstein, chief of hepatology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y.
Although the cases of liver cancer are relatively rare, they have been on the rise around the world. Liver cancer is often associated with viral hepatitis infections and liver diseases, such as cirrhosis.
New cases of HCC in the United States have tripled in the past 30 years, with Latinos and blacks experiencing the largest increase, Setiawan said. During that time, type 2 diabetes also has become increasingly common.
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