A new study suggests the risk of developing head and neck cancers is higher for people living with diabetes, adding to the list of known cancers already associated with the blood glucose disorder.
The research, conducted by Kuo-Shu Tseng and colleagues from Tainan University of Technology in Taiwa, compared health data records of nearly 90,000 people newly diagnosed with those of a group of people without the disease.
They found that those with diabetes were almost 50% more likely to develop head and neck cancers (relatively rare forms of cancer that arise in the nasal cavity, sinuses, lips, mouth, salivary glands, throat or larynx) than the non-diabetic group.
Cancer risk was highest among diabetics between the ages of 40 and 65, while men with diabetes had a greater risk than their female counterparts.
The findings also showed that cancer of the mouth was the most common area diagnosed (57.1%) in the diabetes group, followed by the nasopharynx (the upper part of the throat behind the nose), leading to the researchers to conclude that “risks of developing oral cavity cancer, oropharyngeal cancer, and nasopharyngeal carcinoma were significantly higher in patients with diabetes mellitus.”
They added that while the reasons behind this link between diabetes and head and neck cancer are unclear, theories put forward include genetic risk factors and long-term exposure to high levels of insulin in the blood, which has already been associated with breast cancer.
The study, which was published online July 24 in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology – Head &Neck Surgery, is thought to be among the first to link diabetes and mouth cancer together.
In the UK, latest health statistics show that incidence of mouth cancer and mouth cancer-related deaths are on the rise, with more people dying from the disease than from testicular and cervical cancer combined.

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