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Recent projections indicate that there will be a doubling of cancer patients aged over 65 in the Oceania region by 2035.

Simultaneously, rates of diabetes are increasing in New Zealand (NZ) by a staggering 7 per cent per year – and are three times higher among Māori and Pacific people than in NZ Europeans. Around 35 per cent of our population will be diagnosed with diabetes and 44% with cancer in their lifetime, while 15 per cent will be diagnosed with both.

Advancing our understanding of trends in co-occurrence, and the pathways by which diabetes can impact cancer outcomes, will help to identify points of intervention to reduce this burden. Key questions remain unanswered: how commonly do cancer and diabetes co-occur in NZ, and how might this look in the future? To what extent does diabetes and its care impact on cancer diagnosis, treatment and outcomes? And to what extent are Māori and Pacific people disproportionately impacted by the co-occurrence of diabetes and cancer?

The C3 Research team, in collaboration with our colleagues at the University of Waikato, have secured a two-year Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) project grant to answer these research questions. This project is divided into two components: an investigation of the current and future co-occurrence of cancer and diabetes (Aim 1); and an investigation of the impact of diabetes on breast cancer outcomes (Aim 2).

Aim 1

In Aim 1, we will use Virtual Diabetes Register and New Zealand Cancer Registry data to:

  1. measure the incidence of cancer among those with diabetes, separately for Māori, Pacific and non-Māori/non-Pacific people, and compare this to those without diabetes; and
  2. describe recent trends and project the future burden of cancer, diabetes and their co-occurrence out to 2035, again by ethnicity.

Aim 2

In Aim 2, we will use detailed New Zealand Breast Cancer Register data to:

  1. investigate the impact of diabetes on timely breast cancer diagnosis;
  2. explore the impact of diabetes on cancer treatment; and
  3. determine the impact of diabetes on outcomes including the development of metastases after diagnosis, and survival.

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