Diabetes and Obesity Increase Breast Cancer Risk

Cancer Connect

These results were presented at the 2011 CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Diabetes affects almost 26 million people in the United States and is the seventh leading cause of death.[1] Diabetes contributes to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, lower-limb amputations, and blindness. Some studies have also linked diabetes to an increased risk of certain types of cancer.

Obesity has also been linked with several types of cancer, but in the case of breast cancer the effect may vary by age. In premenopausal women, obesity has been linked with a decreased risk of breast cancer, possibly as a result of disrupted menstrual cycles and altered hormone levels. In postmenopausal women, obesity has consistently been linked with an increased risk of breast cancer, possibly as a result of higher estrogen levels.

To further explore how diabetes and obesity affect breast cancer risk, researchers in Sweden conducted a study among 2,724 women with breast cancer and 20,542 women without breast cancer.[2]

  • Obesity after the age of 60 increased risk of breast cancer by 55%.
  • A recent (within the last four years) diagnosis of diabetes increased the risk of breast cancer by 37%.

The results provide additional evidence that obesity increases the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer, and also suggest that diabetes increases breast cancer risk. Maintaining a healthy body weight throughout life is likely to provide a broad range of health benefits.


[1] National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. National Diabetes Statistics, 2011.

[2] Olsson H, Attner B, Olsson ML, Lithman T, Noreen D. Breast cancer among patients with diabetes, obesity and abnormal blood lipids—a population-based register study in Sweden. Presented at the 2011 CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. December 6-10, 2011. Abstract P1-08-06.

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