Diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and breast cancer: a review of the current evidence

Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Sep;86(3):s823-35. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/86.3.823S.


Incidences of breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome have increased over the past decades with the obesity epidemic, especially in industrialized countries. Insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, and changes in the signaling of growth hormones and steroid hormones associated with diabetes may affect the risk of breast cancer. We reviewed epidemiologic studies of the association between type 2 diabetes and risk of breast cancer and the available evidence on the role of hormonal mediators of an association between diabetes and breast cancer. The combined evidence supports a modest association between type 2 diabetes and the risk of breast cancer, which appears to be more consistent among postmenopausal than among premenopausal women. Despite many proposed potential pathways, the mechanisms underlying an association between diabetes and breast cancer risk remain unclear, particularly because the 2 diseases share several risk factors, including obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and possibly intake of saturated fat and refined carbohydrates, that may confound this association. Although the metabolic syndrome is closely related to diabetes and embraces additional components that might influence breast cancer risk, the role of the metabolic syndrome in breast carcinogenesis has not been studied and thus remains unknown.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Diet* / adverse effects
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Metabolic Syndrome / complications*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Postmenopause
  • Premenopause
  • Risk Factors