Diabetes but not insulin is associated with higher colon cancer mortality

World J Gastroenterol. 2012 Aug 21;18(31):4182-90. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v18.i31.4182.


Aim: To evaluate whether diabetic patients had a higher risk of colon cancer mortality and its associated risk factors.

Methods: The sex-specific crude and age-standardized (to the 2000 World Health Organization population) mortality rates of colon cancer in the Taiwanese general population were first calculated from 1995 to 2006. The trends were evaluated by linear regression. A total of 113,347 diabetic men and 131,573 diabetic women aged ≥ 25 years at recruitment from 1995 to 1998 were followed up until the end of 2006. Age/sex-specific colon cancer mortality rate ratios were calculated comparing the mortality rates of the diabetic patients with the average mortality rates of the general population within 12 years (1995-2006). A sub-cohort of diabetic patients (42,260 men and 49,405 women) was interviewed using a baseline questionnaire and Cox's regression was used to evaluate the risk factors for colon cancer mortality in these diabetic patients.

Results: The crude and age-standardized trends of colon cancer mortality from 1995 to 2006 increased significantly for both sexes in the general population. A total of 641 diabetic men and 573 diabetic women died of colon cancer, with a mortality rate of 74.4 and 54.3 per 100,000 person-years, respectively. Mortality rate ratios [95% confidence intervals (CIs)] showed a significantly higher risk of mortality from colon cancer for the diabetic patients compared to the general population, with the magnitude increasing with decreasing age: 1.65 (1.40-1.95), 2.01 (1.78-2.27), 2.75 (2.36-3.21) and 5.69 (4.65-6.96) for ≥ 75, 65-74, 55-64 and 25-54 years old, respectively, for men; and 1.46 (1.24-1.72), 2.09 (1.84-2.38), 2.67 (2.27-3.14) and 3.05 (2.29-4.06), respectively, for women. Among the sub-cohort of diabetic patients who had been interviewed with the baseline questionnaire, including information on age, sex, diabetes duration, diabetes type, body mass index, smoking, insulin use and area of residence, age and smoking were significantly predictive for colon cancer mortality, with respective adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) (95% CIs) of 1.077 (1.066-1.088) and 1.384 (1.068-1.792). Diabetes duration became a significant factor when those who died of colon cancer within 5 years of diabetes diagnosis were excluded to minimize the possible contamination of diabetes caused by incipient colon cancer, with an adjusted hazard ratio of 1.021 (1.007-1.034). Sex, diabetes type, insulin use, body mass index and area of residence were not significant predictors for colon cancer mortality in the diabetic patients. Although insulin use was categorized into subgroups of duration of use (non-users and users < 5 years, 5-9 years and ≥ 10 years), none of the HRs for colon cancer mortality was significant with regards to different durations of insulin use.

Conclusion: Colon cancer mortality is increasing in Taiwan. A higher risk is observed in diabetic patients. Smoking, but not insulin use, is a modifiable risk factor.

Keywords: Colon cancer; Diabetes mellitus; Mortality; Secular trend.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Colonic Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Diabetes Complications / complications*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Survival Rate
  • Taiwan / epidemiology


  • Insulin