Diabetes and cancer are two heterogenous diseases which are rapidly increasing in prevalence globally. A link between these two non-communicable diseases was first identified over 100 years ago however, recent epidemiological studies and advances in genomic research have provided greater insight into the association between diabetes and cancer. Epidemiological studies have suggested that individuals with diabetes have an increased risk of several types of cancer (including liver, pancreas, colorectal, breast and endometrial) and an increased risk of cancer mortality. However, this increased risk is not observed in all cancers, for example, there is a reduced risk of prostate cancer in individuals with diabetes. It has also been observed that cancer patients have an increased risk of developing diabetes, highlighting that the relationship between these diseases is not straightforward. Evidence of a shared genetic aetiology along with numerous lifestyle and clinical factors have made it challenging to establish if the relationship between the two diseases is causal or a result of confounding factors. This review takes a pan-cancer approach to highlight the complexities of the interactions between type 2 diabetes (T2D) and cancer development indicating where advances in genomic research have enabled a greater insight into these two diseases.
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