Teens: Double the Diabetes, Increasing Later Cancer Risk

Almost a quarter of teens are now at risk of or currently have diabetes, suggests a new government study. Although these findings need to be confirmed, increasing numbers of type 2 diabetes means more teens face serious health problems, including increased risk of cancer, years in the future. The study by the Centers for Disease Control found that teen at risk of prediabetes or diabetes has risen sharply from 9 to 23 percent over the past decade.

The study, published today in the journal Pediatrics, also found that the percent of teens at risk for heart disease remained relatively constant but high over the past decade. Almost half of overweight teens had at least one risk factor for heart disease.

The study pulled data from almost 3,400 teens (ages 12 to 19) who were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The national survey regularly collects data on diet, activity and health measures.

Researchers compared NHANES data from 1999 to 2008, also looking at data every two years in between. The measured risk factors for heart disease included high blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol. LDL – low-density lipoprotein – is the cholesterol commonly linked to heart disease.

For heart disease, about 14 percent of US adolescents had or were at risk for hypertension during the surveyed decade. The prevalence of teens having high LDL cholesterol was 22 percent.

And the more adolescents weighed, the more likely they were to be at risk.  About one-third of normal-weight teens had at last one risk factor for heart disease; 61 percent of obese teens had at least one risk factor.

The jump from 9 to 23 percent prevalence in diabetes risk is significant, but it needs to be confirmed, note the authors. The study identified the prevalence of diabetes and prediabetes using a single measure: fasting blood glucose. The test, which measures the amount of sugar in the blood after not eating, is commonly used to check for diabetes. But because this test may be unreliable in children, the findings should be taken with caution.

Adolescence is a “window of opportunity” for promoting healthier lifestyles, the authors conclude. To read one expert’s view on how to solve the “Weight of Our Nation,” visit Cancer Research Update.

Here’s more on the type 2 diabetes-cancer link.


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