Why are diabetics at reduced risk for prostate cancer? A review of the epidemiologic evidence

Urol Oncol. 2012 Sep;30(5):735-43. doi: 10.1016/j.urolonc.2012.07.008.


A large body of epidemiologic evidence provides strong support for the notion that type-2 diabetics are at decreased risk for prostate cancer. In this review article, we summarize the epidemiologic literature that explores the role of diabetes mellitus and related biomarkers in prostate cancer risk and detection, in order to create a better understanding of the potential mechanisms that underlie this inverse association. The bulk of the data supporting this association comes from the USA, as evidence for this association is less consistent in many other regions of the world. The relationship between diabetes and prostate cancer is suspected to be causal due to evidence of decreasing prostate cancer risk with increasing diabetes duration and lack of evidence for any confounding of this association. Hypothesized mechanisms for decreased prostate cancer risk among diabetics include (1) decreased levels of hormones and other cancer-related growth factors among diabetics, (2) the impact of diabetes on detection-related factors, such as prostate size, circulating prostate-specific antigen (PSA), and health-care seeking behaviors, (3) protective effects of diabetes medications, and (4) a protective effect of diabetes-induced vascular damage in the prostate. The evidence for screening-related factors is compelling, as diabetics appear to have reduced PSA and lower levels of health-care seeking behavior compared with nondiabetics. Furthermore, the inverse association between diabetes and prostate cancer is much less apparent in populations that do not perform biopsies based on PSA levels and in studies restricted to biopsied individuals. The inverse association appears to be stronger for low-grade disease, as compared with high-grade (Gleason >7), which is consistent with the observation that among patients receiving biopsy or prostate cancer treatment, diabetics are more likely to have high-grade disease as compared to nondiabetics, potentially resulting in worse outcomes for diabetics. Epidemiological research has reveals a great deal regarding the relationship between diabetes and prostate cancer risk, but additional research is needed to further clarify the mechanisms underlying this inverse association.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / blood
  • C-Peptide / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / blood*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / blood*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Androgens
  • C-Peptide
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • hemoglobin A1c protein, human
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen