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Jessica Alvarez, RD, LD/N, CDCES
Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist at Moffitt 

Evidence suggests that people with diabetes are at significantly higher risk for many forms of cancer. Type 2 diabetes and cancer share many risk factors, but potential links between the two diseases are not well understood. 

Having diabetes can complicate cancer treatment due to a number of factors. Some treatments for cancer, including certain newer targeted therapy drugs, can spur the development of diabetes, although this effect is usually reversible.

Social and community support resources coupled with education can provide a great deal of improvement for patients facing both diseases. And managing blood sugar well can make healthy impacts for cancer patient's health.

Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and Cancer:

  • Increased load in major organs (kidney, liver, and heart)
  • Increased cellular proliferation
  • Increased mortality
  • Longer hospital admission length of stay
  • Increased fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss

Diabetes Care and Education Specialists at Moffitt help patients facing cancer and diabetes through education for newly diagnosed patients with diabetes, as well as steroid-induced or uncontrolled diabetes. They also teach or review proper insulin/medication self injection technique, and can make recommendations for medication adjustments.

COVID-19 Risks

People with diabetes face a higher chance of experiencing serious complications from COVID-19. In general, people with diabetes are more likely to experience severe symptoms and complications when infected with a virus.

"Your risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 is likely to be lower if your diabetes is well-managed. When people with diabetes do not manage their diabetes well and experience fluctuating blood sugars, they are generally at risk for diabetes-related complications," says Jessica Alvarez, Diabetes Educator on the Clinical Nutrition team at Moffitt.

Having heart disease or other complications in addition to diabetes could worsen the chance of getting seriously ill from COVID-19, like other viral infections, because your body’s ability to fight off an infection is compromised.

Viral infections can increase inflammation, or internal swelling, in people with diabetes. This is also caused by above-target blood sugars, and both could contribute to more severe complications.

If you are experiencing a complex health status and cancer, you can consult with a specialist at Moffitt Cancer Center. To request an appointment, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online.

Source: America Diabetes Association 2020