Higher levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) are associated with a decreased risk of cancer among individuals with type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in Diabetes Care.

Wenhui Zhao, M.D., from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., and colleagues retrospectively analyzed data from a cohort of 14,169 men and 23,176 women with type 2 diabetes. Patients were categorized by HDL-C level to assess cancer risk.

The researchers found that over 6.4 years of follow-up, 3,711 patients with type 2 diabetes were diagnosed with cancer. There was a significant inverse association between HDL-C and the risk of cancer among both men and women. By HDL-C level at baseline, the multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios of cancer were 1.00 for <30; 0.87 at 30 to 39.9; 0.95 at 40 to 49.9; 1.01 at 50 to 59.9; 0.61 at 60 to 69.9; 0.45 at 70 to 79.9; and 0.37 at ≥80 mg/dL in men (Ptrend = 0.027).

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For women, the corresponding hazard ratios were 1.00, 0.98, 0.88, 0.85, 0.84, 0.86, and 0.84 (Ptrend = 0.025). The association remained when stratified by race, body mass index, smoking status, or medication use; however, the inverse association was substantially weakened after excluding patients who died of or were diagnosed with cancer during the first two years of follow-up.

“The study suggests an inverse association of HDL-C with cancer risk among men and women with type 2 diabetes, whereas the effect of HDL-C was partially mediated by reverse causation,” the authors write.


  1. Zhao, Wenhui, et al. “HDL Cholesterol and Cancer Risk Among Patients With Type 2 Diabetes.” Diabetes Care. doi: 10.2337/dc14-0523. September 11, 2014.