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Diabetes and Cancer Connection—March 27 Diabetes Alert Day®

By Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, CDCES March 21, 2018Pearls of Wisdom Blog

Did you know that there is a link between diabetes and your risk of cancer? It’s true. If you have diabetes, you may be at increased risk for multiple types of cancers including: bladder, breast (in women), colorectal, endometrial, liver, lung, oral, oropharyngeal, ovarian and pancreatic.

Diabetes risk factors such as carrying excess body weight, smoking, unhealthy eating, and not exercising are also risk factors for cancer. For instance, obesity is a risk factor for myeloma.  It’s difficult to know if diabetes or these risk factors directly increases your risk of cancer. However it is still important to know your risk factors for diabetes since diabetes can make your cancer treatment more challenging, aggravates side effects, and slows wound healing from surgery.

You may not feel or have signs of diabetes in your body. In fact, 20% of Americans who have diabetes don’t even know they have it. Diabetes is more prevalent in people of African American, Hispanic, or Native American origin. Childhood cancer survivors may have increased risk for Type 2 diabetes in adult years due to cancer treatment.

Act now to know your risk for diabetes. Take the American Diabetes Association’s Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test. The test is free and confidential. Only takes 60 seconds.  What better activity can you do in one minute to make a valuable investment in your health and disease prevention?

You can also download the paper version of the risk quiz for you or loved ones at the same link above.

If you are at risk for diabetes, what can you do to lower your risk of diabetes and cancer at the same time?*

  • Get active. Adults who exercise can lower their risk of 13 types of cancers, prediabetes and diabetes. Just 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days per week is the threshold. Or, 15 minutes after each meal is also effective.
  • Eat a plant-based diet, where at least half of your plate if not more is full of vegetables, fruits, and legumes (dried beans and peas).
  • Just say no to smoking.
  • Keep a healthy weight for you.
  • Get the recommended age-based cancer screenings.

Be smart—know your risk both for cancer and diabetes. You can learn more about cancer and diabetes at the following resources.


*Before changing your diet or starting an exercise program, talk to your healthcare team.

Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, CDCES

Author Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, CDCES

Nutrition Educator Margaret Martin is a Licensed Dietitian and Nutritionist in the State of Tennessee as well as a Certified Diabetes Educator. Margaret graduated from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics and received her Master’s Degree in Nutrition Science & Public Health from the University of Tennessee. With more than 10 years of experience in Clinical Nutrition, Margaret has also worked in the insurance industry with WellPoint Inc. and Blue Cross Blue Shield providing telephonic nutrition consultations, service assistance, and web-based nutrition education. In her free time Margaret volunteers with the American Lung Association’s annual “Lung Force Walk" in Middle Tennessee. She belongs to the Oncology Nutrition & Diabetes Care and Education Dietetic Practice Groups of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

More posts by Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, CDCES

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