Study findings: diabetics may benefit from earlier colonoscopies

A pair of physician researchers reported in May they have found a connection between diabetics and a higher incidence of precancerous polyps, leading to a recommendation that Type 2 diabetics may need to begin colorectal screenings earlier than the typical age 50.

The researchers, Dr. Honga Vu, a clinical gastroenterology fellow at Washington University and Dr. John Petrini, a gastroenterologist at Sansum Clinic and past president of the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, presented their findings during Digestive Disease Week in San Diego.

While the findings are important, Gastrointestinal Associates physician Stanley L. Miller cautioned that more studies are needed to confirm the connection.

“Any research that helps us diagnose and treat precancerous conditions is positive, but the results of this study need to be duplicated before a definitive connection can be drawn,” Miller said. “However it does raise awareness among diabetics that they are at a higher risk of a number of cancers, including colorectal.”

If you are a diabetic younger than 50 who is concerned about colorectal cancer, talk with your physician about all your risk factors to determine if a screening colonoscopy is recommended.

Diabetes has already been linked with an increased risk of cancer across the board, but the researchers in this study wanted to determine if people with diabetes also had a higher risk of developing precancerous polyps earlier than people without diabetes.

The study focused three groups of 125 people: 40-49 year old diabetics and non-diabetics, as well as 50-59 non-diabetics. All had undergone colonoscopies to find and remove any polyps before they could develop into cancer.

The researchers found that polyps were discovered in the younger group who had diabetes at a rate similar to that of the older group of non-diabetics.

Although the findings are preliminary, they could have important implications for colorectal cancer screening guidelines for diabetics in the future.