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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 (https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-020-05228-y) 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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