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High blood sugar levels and a diagnosis of diabetes are significant independent risk factors for several major cancers, according to a 10-year study of more than a million people.

Korean researchers found that elevated fasting serum glucose levels and a diagnosis of diabetes were associated with cancers of the oesophagus, liver, colon, cervix, pancreas and bile duct.

The risk increased with the level of fasting serum glucose and remained when BMI was taken into account, suggesting the finding was a consequence of hyperinsulaemia and not confounded by obesity.

Professor Kay-Tee Khaw, Cancer Research UK professor of gerontology at the University of Cambridge, said it was interesting that this study had found a link between cancer and blood sugar alone, even in the absence of a diagnosis of diabetes.

'It's also interesting that they looked at so many different types of cancer', she said.

'Increased blood glucose is clear in the type of diet

associated with obesity and that has been linked with cancer so it may reflect a common aetiology.'

Some 1.2 million people aged 30-95 took part in the study. The highest levels of fasting serum glucose increased risk of cancer death by 29 per cent in men and 23 per cent in women, according to the study in JAMA this month.

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