Diabetes mellitus (DM) has been associated with the risk of several gastrointestinal cancers including liver, pancreas, colon and rectum. However, the evidence is inconclusive for gastric adenocarcinoma (GC). In the current review, we summarize 20 population-based cohort studies that compared GC incidence and mortality between diabetic and non-diabetic population. We discuss the shared risk factors and provide qualitative and quantitative (meta-analytic) summary of the current evidence evaluating the association by high-risk subgroups. The overall risk-estimate based on all studies did not show an increased risk of GC in diabetics. However, 2 cohort studies conducted in East Asian countries, where Helicobacter pylori infection and GC rates are higher, showed a higher risk of GC in diabetics. Additionally, high plasma glucose levels in the presence of Helicobacter pylori infection increased the risk of GC by over four times, suggesting a multiplicative effect. Results from the meta-analysis show that, the risk of GC was also higher in populations with greater prevalence of type 1 DM (relative risk = 1.60), suggesting an insulin-independent carcinogenic process in this subgroup. The risk of mortality due to GC was higher in diabetics compared to non-diabetics (relative risk = 1.62). Although the overall risk estimates do not show an association between DM and GC, complex interactions between infectious, molecular, demographic and host factors may convey a higher risk in certain subgroups. Future studies should be sufficiently powered for detailed subgroup analysis to elucidate the causative and mechanistic association between DM and GC.
Keywords: Diabetes mellitus, gastric carcinoma, Helicobacter pylori, hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia