Women with Diabetes Face Greater Oral Cancer Risk

Dentistry Today


Women with diabetes face a 13% higher risk of developing oral cancer and a 27% increase of developing any kind of cancer, according to an international team of researchers. Plus, the odds of developing oral cancer were statistically significantly higher for women with diabetes than for men with diabetes, the researchers said. The systematic review examined 121 cohorts including more than 19 million individuals and more than 1 million all-site cancer events.

The researchers note that cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide, with 8.7 million deaths in 2015. Also, they said, 415 million adults had diabetes in 2015, with 5 million deaths attributable to the disease. The researchers expect incidences of cancer and diabetes both to increase in the future, underscoring the need for more prevention and treatment. 

“This could be a very significant piece of research, and one that could help to save lives. Diabetes has previously been linked to poor oral health, but this new research shows a specific link to mouth cancer,” said Dr. Nigel Carter, OBE, chief executive officer of the Oral Health Foundation.

“More people lose their lives to mouth cancer every year in Britain than from cervical and testicular cancer combined. Without early detection, the five-year survival rate for mouth cancer is only 50%. But if it is caught early, survival rates can dramatically improve to up to 90%, as well as the quality of life for survivors being significantly increased,” Carter said.

Carter notes that dentists and patients alike should strive to keep up with regular dental visits and conduct oral cancer screenings at each appointment, especially for diabetics. Also, he urges everyone to be alert to the signs of cancer in their own mouths, such as ulcers that do not heal within three weeks, red or white patches, and unusual lumps or swellings in the head or neck.

The study, “Sex Differences in the Association Between Diabetes and Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of 121 Cohorts Including 20 Million Individuals and One Million Events,” was published by Diabetologia.

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