Popular Diabetes Drug May Lower Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Throughout the United States there are 25.8 million children and adults in the United States who have diabetes. That accounts for 8.3 percent of the population . A new study shows that diabetes drugs are linked with pancreatic cancer risk, but while one popular diabetes drug may lower it, others may boost it.

A study, published in the January 31 online issue of The American Journal of Gastroenterology, shows that the long term use of diabetes drugs is linked with the pancreatic cancer risk. This stands as the fourth most deadly cancer in the United States with an overall survival rate of less than 5 percent.

Dr. Cristoph Meier of the University Hospital Basel in Switzerland and his colleagues has looked at more than 8 million people in the UK, trying to figure out the association between pancreatic cancer, diabetes and drugs.

The study’s findings show that using the popular diabetes drug metformin for a long time may lower the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. At the same time, using other class of diabetes medication (known as the sulfonylureas) for a long period carries a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

Metformin is a drug that works the body to produce or absorb less glucose, while sulfonylureas does the opposite. It makes the body to yield more insulin to keep blood sugar levels in check.

As the study shows, two percent of people with pancreatic cancer had been taking metformin long-term before being diagnosed, while 1.6 percent of the group without cancer didn’t. And then the mind-boggling continued. Scientists separated the records by gender, and found that women with a new diagnosis of pancreatic cancer taking metformin for at least a few years were less in number than the women without cancer.

Dr. Peter Butler, not involved in the study, told Reuters Health: “one theme that seems to be coming through… is that the oldest drug we have for diabetes, metformin, is undoubtedly the best drug we have for diabetes”.

Previous research also shows that metformin intake may actually reduce the risk for developing other cancers, such as breast and ovarian in particular.

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