Those with diabetes are more likely to develop head and neck cancers, research shows

| Jul 29, 2014

While experts have long noted that those with diabetes have a higher risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular issues, a new study shows the risk of head and neck cancers is also higher for diabetics.

Head and neck cancers are classified as cancer that arises in the nasal cavity, sinuses, lips, mouth, salivary glands, throat or larynx, according to the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers from Taiwan identified 89,089 patients who were newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes using the country’s Longitudinal Health Insurance Research Database, along with a group containing people with similar identifying features to the diabetes group, but without the disease.

Results indicated that those with diabetes were almost one and a half times more likely to develop a head and neck cancer – particularly cancers of the mouth or the oropharynx and nasopharynx, both located just behind the nasal cavity and leading to the esophagus – than the control group, researchers said.

Head and neck cancers occurred more frequently in those aged 40 to 65 with diabetes as well as in men with diabetes, compared to those without the disease.

“Diabetes is associated with an increased risk of developing head and neck cancers,” researchers concluded. “The risks of developing oral cavity cancer, oropharyngeal cancer, and nasopharyngeal carcinoma were significantly higher in patients with diabetes mellitus.”

Head and neck cancers account for about three percent of all cancers and are more common in men than women and those over age 50 than in younger people, according to national statistics.

Experts say about 550,000 cases are diagnosed each year worldwide.

The study appeared in the in JAMA journal Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery.

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