Prediabetes and Cancer

A recent analysis of 16 previous studies - totaling 891,426 participants from all over the world - showed that having prediabetes is associated with a 15% increased risk for cancer. Of course there is some variation based on the type of cancer. 

You may have noticed that I like to quote studies that are really analyses of previous studies. Isn't this redundant? Nope! It's actually a great way for science to reflect, and to note patterns. One study on its own doesn't mean much. 16 studies all pointing us in the same direction? That's powerful.

There are some hypotheses about why we see this increase in cancer risk. What is actually going on in the body that makes it this way? How does it all connect? These are interesting questions with some thoughtful answers, and you can download the entire study here. But that's not what I found most interesting and shocking about it all. 

What strikes me is the boldness of this assertion. Bold because many people haven't heard of prediabetes. And many more people have it, but never get diagnosed with it. To keep this from getting too technical, a quick definition. Prediabetes is that in-between stage between normal blood sugar regulation and a full-on diagnosis of diabetes. It's a sign that things are going amiss, and it's time to turn the ship around.

There are some significant issues with our health care system - which I will not get into here - which can cause many people to miss regular doctor's appointments and annual physicals. So they miss out on that window. More often, people wait to go to the doctor until something hurts. Many people don't find out there is a problem until they have diabetes.

Diabetes has become normalized in many ways. It is so rampant in our society that some people just come to accept that this will be their life. Why prevent it? Everyone in my family has it. I'll get it at some point, too, right? Is it really worth it to make the effort to change things? Can I even change things? 

Sometimes I think there are too many success stories out there. Wait, what?!


I think that there are too many stories of people reversing their poor health. So the public message becomes that it's ok to gain weight or to get diabetes because you can undo it later. Contestants on The Biggest Loser and people who have had weight loss surgery no longer require medical management of their disease. It's as though it's disappeared. So why make changes now, if those options exist?

Never mind the blood, sweat, tears, and/or dollars spent to get those health changes. Sometimes we forget that part. And that just because it sounds good as the "after" story, it does not mean that it is all ok now.

And then this study comes out, and reminds us that even being on the edge of disease has greater implications for us. Our body is interconnected, and no disease exists in isolation. There is a ripple effect of bad choices and ailments. Just being "on the way to diabetes" can wreak havoc on your body. 

Studies like this remind me to be vigilant about my health every day, and with every choice I make. They remind me that prevention is the best medicine. So what healthy choice will you make for yourself TODAY?


Katie Goldberg

Katie Goldberg, MCN, RDN, LDN, has been a registered dietitian since 2013, but has always had a passion for good food and a healthy lifestyle. Katie earned her Master’s of Clinical Nutrition from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and has worked in private practice, higher education, in a clinical setting, and as an in-house dietitian for a food company. Whether it's at through large groups or one-on-one, Katie enjoys connecting people with easy and practical solutions for better health.