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Using genetics to decipher the link between type 2 diabetes and cancer: shared aetiology or downstream consequence?- published online 23/07/2020

Emma E. Vincent, Hanieh Yaghootkar

The global prevalence of type 2 diabetes is estimated to reach over 500 million by 2030. To compound this health crisis, observational epidemiological studies have consistently reported that people with type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of certain types of cancer. To direct prevention and intervention strategies the association between the two disease states needs to be understood. In this issue, Vincent and Yaghootkar ( review how large-scale genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have been employed to investigate a possible relationship between type 2 diabetes and cancer. The evidence for shared genetic aetiology between alleles predisposing to type 2 diabetes and the observationally associated cancers is explored. The authors also discuss how GWAS and techniques such as Mendelian randomisation are used to investigate whether type 2 diabetes causes cancer or whether this association is driven by a particular metabolic feature, such as elevated insulin levels, or by an associated trait, such as obesity. Finally, the authors discuss areas for future study, including genetics studies of type 2 diabetes and cancer progression. The figure from this review is available as a downloadable slideset.

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