Life expectancy for a patient with type 2 diabetes remains substantially shorter than an equivalent individual without diabetes, largely because of a greater risk of cardiovascular disease. Diabetes is also associated with an increased incidence of many types of cancer, suggesting that malignancy may also contribute to higher rates of mortality. Hyperglycemia is one of the key risk factors for diabetes-associated macro- and microvascular disease, and as such, intensive glycemic control is associated with improved outcomes for patients, including a reduction in this risk of death from any cause, when initiated early in the disease course. Recent trials in patients with more advanced disease have failed to demonstrate a mortality benefit with intensive glycemic control, although this may reflect their short observation period. Intensive multifactorial therapy, including lifestyle intervention and control of hyperglycemia, hypertension, lipids, thrombosis, and microalbuminuria, is likely to be the best strategy against diabetes-associated macrovascular mortality. However, analysis of the Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes (ACCORD) trial indicates that there may be a subpopulation of patients who are unable to achieve glycemic targets with intensive therapy and that aggressive intensification of treatment in this group may increase mortality risk. It remains to be determined whether the relationship between diabetes and malignancy is causal or whether they share common risk factors. Current recommendations for a healthy lifestyle based on good diet, physical exercise, and weight management in order to control diabetes-related complications are likely to apply in reducing the risk of many forms of cancer and should be advocated for all patients.