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Studies spell double trouble for women

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There’s been a double whammy of bad health news for women, with one study finding that women with diabetes are more likely to develop cancer, and a second finding that women are twice as likely as men to be under-treated for heart attack.

In the first study, researchers from The George Institute for Global Health reviewed the health outcomes of almost 20 million people involved in 47 studies.

They discovered that having diabetes – type 1 or type 2 – significantly raises the risk of developing cancer, with a significantly higher risk for women.

Women with diabetes were 27 per cent more likely to develop cancer than women without diabetes. For men, the risk was 19 per cent higher.

Overall, women with diabetes were six per cent more likely to develop any form of cancer than men with diabetes.

“The link between diabetes and the risk of developing cancer is now strongly established,” lead author, Dr Toshiaki Ohkuma, said.

“We have also demonstrated, for the first time, that women with diabetes are more likely to develop any form of cancer, and have a significantly higher chance of developing kidney, oral, and stomach cancers, and leukaemia.

“The number of people with diabetes has doubled globally in the past 30 years, but we still have much to learn about the condition.

“It’s vital that we undertake more research into discovering what is driving this, and for both people with diabetes and the medical community to be aware of the heightened cancer risk for women and men with diabetes.”

The George Institute research was published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

In the second study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, University of Sydney researchers found that women admitted to 41 Australian hospitals with ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI) in the past decade were half as likely as men to receive appropriate diagnostic tests and treatment.

They were also less likely to be referred for cardiac rehabilitation, and prescribed preventive medications, at discharge.

Death rates and serious adverse cardiovascular events among these women were more than double the rates seen in men six months after discharge.

“The reasons for the under-treatment and management of women compared to men in Australian hospitals aren’t clear,” lead author and cardiologist, Professor Clara Chow, said.

“It might be due to poor awareness that women with STEMI are generally at higher risk, or by a preference for subjectively assessing risk rather than applying more reliable, objective risk prediction tools.

“Whatever the cause, these differences aren’t justified. We need to do more research to discover why women suffering serious heart attacks are being under-investigated by health services, and urgently identify ways to redress the disparity in treatment and health outcomes.”