Could diabetes raise your risk for liver cancer?

Having diabetes could increase your risk for a certain type of liver cancer, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California found that people with diabetes have a two- to threefold higher risk for hepatocellular carcinoma – the most common type of liver cancer – than patients without the disease.

Ethnic patterns

Dr. Wendy Setiawan, assistant professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Keck, said the study results were especially significant for certain ethnic groups.

"The interethnic differences in the prevalence of diabetes were consistent with the pattern of hepatocellular carcinoma incidence observed across ethnicities," she explained. "Ethnic groups with a high prevalence of diabetes also have high hepatocellular carcinoma rates, and those with a lower prevalence of diabetes have lower hepatocellular carcinoma rates."

The association between diabetes and hepatocellular carcinoma was highest for Latinos, followed by Hawaiians, African Americans and Japanese Americans, the study found.

Targeting high-risk populations

A press release on the study states that the number of new cases of hepatocellular carcinoma in the U.S. has tripled in the past three decades – a phenomenon that might have to do with the rise of obesity rates and diabetes.

The new research confirms the findings of a 2005 study published in the journal Gut, which found that diabetes was an independent risk factor for hepatocellular carcinoma.

"People with diabetes should be aware that their condition is associated with a higher risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma," Setiawan said. "Maintaining a healthy weight, managing their diabetes, preventing and treating hepatitis infection, and limiting alcohol and tobacco use should be in their priority to-do list."

Source: American Association for Cancer Research

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