Childhood Cancer Survivors at Higher Risk of Diabetes: What You Need to Know!

New research reveals that children who have overcome cancer must overcome various health difficulties, such as an increased risk for diabetes.

Diabetes poses a significant risk to children who have battled cancer.

News Picture: Diabetes a Common Threat to Kids Who Survive Cancer

Kids who’ve battled cancer face an uphill battle when it comes to their health. A new study from St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital reveals that these children have twice the odds of developing prediabetes, a precursor to diabetes, compared to kids without a history of cancer. This shocking finding emphasizes the importance of raising awareness about the long-term health risks that these survivors face.

The Alarming Prevalence of Prediabetes

One of the most striking aspects of the study was the high prevalence of prediabetes among childhood cancer survivors. According to Dr. Stephanie Dixon, an oncologist at St. Jude’s, “The problem is over time, more and more people continue to progress to diabetes.” This means that if prediabetes begins at the age of 20, there is a substantial increase in the risk of heart disease and kidney issues at much younger ages. This is a cause for concern, as it can significantly impact the quality of life for these survivors.

The Study’s Findings

The study involved over 3,500 childhood cancer survivors and 448 adults without a history of cancer. By the time they reached an average age of 30, more than 29% of the survivors had prediabetes, compared to about 18% of the control group. Astonishingly, 6.5% of childhood cancer survivors had full-blown diabetes, while only 4.7% of the control group had the condition.

As the survivors reached their 40s, the numbers became even more alarming. Almost half (45.5%) of the childhood cancer survivors had prediabetes, while 14% had diabetes. These numbers reflect a significant increase in risk for chronic health conditions such as heart disease, which was much higher among the cancer survivors.

Preventing Diabetes through Lifestyle Changes

The good news is that with proper lifestyle management, prediabetes and diabetes can be prevented. It’s crucial to help survivors understand that prediabetes is an early warning sign that requires action. Whether it’s making lifestyle changes, starting medication, or following up with primary care, survivors need to take steps to prevent the progression to diabetes.

Physicians play a critical role in this process by identifying when a survivor has developed prediabetes and counseling them on the importance of diabetes prevention and follow-up. By implementing interventions to reduce risk in this population, we can help childhood cancer survivors live longer, healthier lives.

Q&A: Addressing Concerns of Childhood Cancer Survivors

Q: What are the contributing factors to the increased risk of diabetes among childhood cancer survivors? A: There are several factors that contribute to this increased risk. The treatments used to fight cancer, such as chemotherapy and radiation, can impact the function of the pancreas, which is responsible for producing insulin. Additionally, certain cancer types, such as leukemia, are associated with a higher risk of developing diabetes.

Q: Are there any specific lifestyle changes that childhood cancer survivors can make to reduce their risk of diabetes? A: Yes, lifestyle changes can significantly reduce the risk of diabetes. Healthy eating habits, regular physical activity, and weight management are key factors in preventing diabetes. It’s important for survivors to work closely with healthcare professionals to develop an individualized plan that focuses on these lifestyle modifications.

Q: Can childhood cancer survivors reverse prediabetes and prevent the development of diabetes? A: Yes, prediabetes can often be reversed through lifestyle changes. Studies have shown that losing a modest amount of weight and increasing physical activity can have a significant impact on reducing the risk of diabetes. It’s essential for survivors to take proactive steps and implement these changes as early as possible.

Q: How can healthcare professionals support childhood cancer survivors in managing their diabetes risk? A: Healthcare professionals can play a crucial role in supporting survivors by providing education, regular check-ups, and creating personalized care plans. They can monitor blood sugar levels, provide guidance on nutrition and exercise, and assist with medication management if necessary. Regular follow-ups are vital to ensure that survivors are on track to prevent diabetes.

In conclusion, childhood cancer survivors face an increased risk of developing prediabetes and diabetes. However, with proper lifestyle management and support from healthcare professionals, this risk can be mitigated. It is vital for survivors, their families, and the medical community to work together to raise awareness about this issue and take proactive steps to prevent diabetes. By doing so, childhood cancer survivors can lead longer, healthier lives.


  1. American Childhood Cancer Organization – Health Risks Faced by Survivors
  2. Journal of Clinical Oncology – Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Risk Pool for Adult Cardiovascular Diseases in Childhood Cancer Survivors
  3. Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group – Reduction in the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes with Lifestyle Intervention or Metformin

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