Glucocorticoid-induced hyperglycemia is prevalent and unpredictable for patients undergoing cancer therapy: an observational cohort study

D. Harris, A. Barts, J. Connors, M. Dahl, T. Elliott, J. Kong, T. Keane, D. Thompson, S. Stafford, E. Ur, S. Sirrs



Patients with cancer are often treated with glucocorticoids (gcs) as part of therapy, which may cause hyperglycemia. We sought to define the prevalence of, and risk factors for, hyperglycemia in this setting.


Adult patients taking gc as part of therapy protocols for primary brain tumour or metastasis, for lymphoma, or for bone marrow transplant (bmt) were screened with random glucometer measurements taken at least 3 hours after the last dose gcs.


We screened 90 patients [44.4% women, 55.6% men; mean age: 59.6 years (range: 25–82 years); mean body mass index (bmi): 26.4 kg/m2 (range: 15.8–45.3 kg/m2)] receiving gc as part of cancer treatment. Mean total daily gc dose in the group was 238.5 mg (range: 30–1067 mg) hydrocortisone equivalents. Hyperglycemia (glucose ≥ 8.0 mmol/L) was found in 58.9% (53 of 90), and diabetes mellitus (dm)–range hyperglycemia (glucose ≥ 11.1 mmol/L) in 18.9% (17 of 90). The mean time from gc ingestion to glucometer testing was 5.5 hours (range: 3–20 hours). Presence of hyperglycemia did not correlate with traditional dm risk factors such as age, sex, bmi, and personal or family history of dm. A longer interval from gc dose to testing (p < 0.05), a higher gc dose (p = 0.04), and a shorter interval between the preceding meal and testing (p = 0.02) were risk factors for hyperglycemia in some patient groups.


Glucocorticoid-induced hyperglycemia is common in patients undergoing cancer treatment and cannot be predicted by traditional risk factors for dm. We recommend that all cancer patients receiving gc be screened for hyperglycemia at least 4–6 hours after gc administration.


Hyperglycemia; glucocorticoids; glucocorticoidinduced diabetes; diabetes mellitus

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