November marks American Diabetes Month, a movement spearheaded by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) to raise awareness of the issues surrounding diabetes and the millions affected by it.1 With an estimated 26 million Americans currently diagnosed with diabetes, another 79 million with prediabetes (at risk for type 2 diabetes), and a total national cost of diagnosed diabetes of $245 billion, this is undoubtedly a disease that warrants significant time and attention.1
Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
There are two main forms of diabetes—type 1 and type 2 (a third, gestational diabetes, can occur during pregnancy), and with 90-95 percent of diabetes cases in the U.S. classified as type 2, most of what you read about diabetes is talking about type 2.3
You may have heard of the two types of diabetes being referred to as juvenile (type 1) and adult-onset (type 2) diabetes due to the relative age of diagnosis. But as the incidence of type 2 diabetes has increased in children and adolescents (likely due to a marked rise in overweight and obesity in these age groups, a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes), health care providers have moved away from those colloquial labels because they are misleading.2
At the core, both forms of diabetes deal with insulin problems getting glucose from the blood into the body’s cells, but there are some differentiating factors between the two. The infographic from Mount Sinai below illustrates the differences between type 1 and 2 diabetes, as well as symptoms, risk factors, screening tests, health complications (it’s leading cause of kidney failure and blindness in adults), and other pertinent information.3
Diabetes and Cancer
According to a consensus panel of experts from the American Cancer Society and American Diabetes Association, diabetes (primarily type 2) is associated with an increased incidence of some cancers. At this time it is unclear whether this relationship is the result of the diseases’ shared risk factors or due to diabetes itself and its specific metabolic alterations increasing cancer risk. Although a lot still needs to be understood about diabetes and cancer independently, as well as its relationship, disease outcomes for both are improved with a healthful diet, physical activity, and weight management.4
Caryn Huneke is completing her dietetic internship and MS degree in Nutrition Education at Teachers College, Columbia University to become a Registered Dietitian.
- American Diabetes Month. American Diabetes Association. Accessed November 25, 2013. http://www.diabetes.org/in-my-community/programs/american-diabetes-month/
- American Diabetes Association. (2000). Consensus Statement: Type 2 Diabetes in Children and Adolescents. Diabetes Care; 23(3):381-389.
- Diabetes and How It Affects You. Mount Sinai Hospital. Accessed November 25, 2013. http://www.mountsinai.org/patient-care/service-areas/diabetes/infographic/diabetesinfo
- Giovannucci, E., Harlan, D. M., Archer, M. C., Bergenstal, R. M., Gapstur, S. M., Habel, L. A., Pollak, M., Regensteiner, J. G. and Yee, D. (2010). Diabetes and Cancer: A Consensus Report. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 60: 207–221.