Diabetics Need Earlier Colon Cancer Screening

Colon cancer screening is required for those who reach the age of 50 years old. However, type 2 diabetics may need to get the screening in their 40s since pre-cancerous polyps may are known to have developed by this age.

A researcher from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and a clinical gastroenterology fellow, Dr. Susan Hongha Vu, said that it seems that diabetes can hasten abnormal precancerous growths by 10 years. If the study is validated with a more thorough and larger study group, then those with type 2 diabetes should get the screening through a colonoscopy or other means by the age of 40. Dr. Vu presented their findings at the Digestive Disease Week meeting in San Diego.

Guidelines established by health practitioners and government officials states that those who have reached the age 50 must undergo colon cancer screening. The most common screening method is colonoscopy which provides doctors a clear view of the bowels and to remove any irregular growths if there are any.  Other colon cancer screening tests that can be employed would be fecal occult blood testing and flexible sigmoidoscopy. However, those who are prone to such cancer should have the screening test at an earlier age.

If one has diabetes then this can be a risk factor for colon cancer according to Dr. Vu. She also said that so far there are many studies that show that colon cancer development and diabetes has a connection. She also noted that so far no guidelines for diabetes sufferers have been made for them to go for a screening test.

The study conducted by Dr. Vu were taken from colonoscopy records of patients over a 6 year period.  There were 125 patients from age 40-49 with type 2 diabetes and 125 of the same age without diabetes. Another group were from 50-59 without diabetes. The colonoscopy conducted on these patients showed at least 1 precancerous polyp. 14% had precancerous polyps for 40-49 group that were not diabetic. 30% were found on those with diabetes for the ages 40-49. 32% had the abnormal growth from the 50-59 age group without diabetes. The study does not prove whether diabetes have a direct cause for the growths.

John Petrini, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara, California, said that the study did not measure other risk factors  for abnormal growths and colon cancer on diabetics. Dr. Vu said in the study that the high levels of insulin in the blood might be a reason why precancerous growths and cancer cells develop faster. Dr. Petrini states that there is still a need for more studies and evidence to link the two disorders and it is too early to discuss changing the guidelines for the screening age. However, Dr. Petrini says that it is really up to the patient to have a screening at an earlier age if there is much concern about being colon cancer-prone. A colonoscopy or any other method can be made on the patient.