Cancer has now overtaken heart disease as the most common cause of death for Scottish people with type 2 diabetes, researchers have said.

It is already known that poorly controlled diabetes can reduce life expectancy, but a research team wanted to determine exactly what the causes might be.

The team studied heath data recorded between 2009 and 2014 among those with type 2 diabetes in Ayrshire and Arran.

Over the course of the study period, there were 2,116 deaths. The causes were divided up into nine categories, which were: heart disease, stroke, infection, renal failure, respiratory disorders, cancer, mental health, decompensated diabetes and ‘other’.

The death rates for different age groups in the measured population were then compared with expected national averages using a system called Standardised Mortality Ratio (SMR).

They found the most common cause of death was cancer (27.8%), followed by heart disease (24.1%) and respiratory diseases (13.0%).

The SMR for cancer deaths was significantly elevated in females, meaning the actual deaths for females in the study were higher than the expected values based on national data.

It was also found that there were no significant differences in causes of death based on the duration of diabetes.

The researchers concluded: “This study confirmed increased mortality risk in type 2 diabetes and suggests that where cardiovascular risk factors are being treated aggressively, cancer takes on a greater importance in the cause of death.”

They ended the article by posing a question: “Should greater consideration now be given for cancer as a complication of diabetes?”

The research was published in the Journal of Diabetes Investigation.

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