People with type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of 57 other health conditions, including cancer, kidney disease and neurological illnesses, according to the most comprehensive study of its kind.
Millions of people worldwide have the condition, which is linked to being overweight or inactive, or having a family history of type 2 diabetes. It is well known that the condition increases the risk of ill health. Now researchers at the University of Cambridge have been able to show the true scale of the risk type 2 diabetes presents.
In the most comprehensive observational study of health in middle age involving people with and without type 2 diabetes, experts found the condition was linked to a higher incidence of 57 long-term illnesses. On average, those with the condition had these health problems as many as five years earlier than people without it.
Experts described the findings as stark and alarming and said it underlined the urgent need to reduce the risk of more people developing type 2 diabetes. The study, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, is being presented at the Diabetes UK professional conference.
Data for 3 million people from the UK Biobank and GP records and 116 illnesses commonly seen in middle age was examined. Those with type 2 diabetes had a higher risk of 57 of the conditions, including a 9% increased risk of cancer.
Those with type 2 diabetes were 5.2 times more likely to have end-stage kidney disease, 4.4 times more likely to have liver cancer and 3.2 times more likely to have macular degeneration. When it came to circulatory conditions, those with type 2 diabetes had a higher risk of 23 out of 31 problems.
Type 2 diabetes was associated with a higher risk of poor health across all 11 health categories, with a 2.6 times higher risk of neurological issues, a 2.3 times higher risk of eye problems, 1.9 times higher risk of digestive issues and 1.8 times higher risk of mental ill health.
The study focused on people over 30. Experts found that higher risks occurred when people were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes under the age of 50.
“This study illustrates in alarming detail the unacceptable prevalence of poor health in middle-aged people with type 2 diabetes, and is a stark reminder of the extensive and serious long-term effects of diabetes on the body,” said Dr Elizabeth Robertson, the director of research at Diabetes UK.
“That’s why it’s so important that people at increased risk of type 2 diabetes are supported to reduce their risk, and that those living with the condition have continued access to routine care and support to manage it well and avoid or delay complications.”
Dr Luanluan Sun, who co-led the research in her former role as a clinical epidemiologist at the University of Cambridge, said it showed preventing and delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes was “essential” to reduce the likelihood of poor health in middle age.