Type 2 diabetes and cancer: what is the connection?

Mt Sinai J Med. Mar-Apr 2010;77(2):197-213. doi: 10.1002/msj.20167.


Epidemiological studies have demonstrated an association between type 2 diabetes and cancer. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia. Hyperinsulinemia may lead to cancer through insulin's effect on its cognate receptor and the insulin-like growth factor system. The effects of insulin and insulin-like growth factor I on cancer development and progression have been demonstrated in animal and human studies. Type 2 diabetes has been positively associated with cancers of the breast, colon, and pancreas. An inverse relationship has been observed between type 2 diabetes and prostate cancer, and this may be due to lower testosterone levels in men with type 2 diabetes. Medications used to treat type 2 diabetes may affect cancer cells directly or indirectly by affecting serum insulin levels. Hyperinsulinemia may be an important risk factor for cancer as well as a target for cancer therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperinsulinism
  • Insulin
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Male
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Somatomedins
  • Thiazolidinediones / therapeutic use


  • Insulin
  • Somatomedins
  • Thiazolidinediones