Type 2 diabetes drug may increase risk of pancreatic cancer

Some type 2 diabetes medications may put users at greater risk for pancreatic cancer, according to a new study recently published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. The study adds more concern about the safety of type 2 diabetes medications.

The study involved data from more than eight million people in the United Kingdom, including about 2,800 who were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer between 1995 and 2009. For each of those with pancreatic cancer, researchers found another six of the same age and gender that didn’t have pancreatic cancer to serve as a comparison group.

Using records from primary care doctors, the researchers determined how many patients in the pancreatic cancer group and the cancer-free group had been previously diagnosed with diabetes and were using medication to control their blood sugar. The study focused on metformin and sulfonylureas, such as glimepiride and glyburide, which produce more insulin to keep blood sugar levels in check.

Researchers found that one in nine people with pancreatic cancer had a prior diagnosis of diabetes, compared to one in 12 in the cancer-free group. Two percent of people with pancreatic cancer had been taking metformin long-term compared to 1.6 percent of the group without cancer. Comparatively, significantly more people with pancreatic cancer had a history of long-term use of sulfonylureas than those in the cancer-free group.

The study suggests that metformin may protect people against cancer, whereas sulfonylureas could put users at greater risk for developing the disease.

Sulfonylureas are a type of synthetic insulin. Another class is known as TZD and include the type 2 diabetes drugs Actos (pioglitazone) and Avandia (rosiglitazone). Avandia use was recently severely restricted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after studies linked the drug to heart attacks. And, a new warning was recently added to Actos after the drug was found to increase users risk for bladder cancer.


ACTOS is a trademark of Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and used under license by Takeda Pharmaceuticals America, Inc.  AVANDIA is a registered trademark of GlaxoSmithKline.

Source: Reuters