A type of diabetes medications known as insulin sensitizers may reduce the risk of cancer by a third in women who used the drugs, a new study suggests.
Insulin sensitizers include the commonly prescribed drug metformin as well as Avandia, known generically as rosiglitazone, and Actos, known generically as pioglitazone. The new study claims these insulin sensitizers were better at preventing cancer in women than diabetes drugs known as insulin secretagogues such as glyburide, glipizide and glimepiride.
Type 2 diabetics are already 30 to 50 times more likely to develop cancer than those without the metabolic disorder. Women with diabetes are at even greater risk of breast and reproductive tract cancers than women without the disease.
However, the elevated cancer risk in diabetics was largely overlooked because the cardiovascular risk was so rampant. Now that type 2 diabetics are better able to manage their insulin levels, researchers say they are living long enough to become more vulnerable to cancer.
The cancer preventative with insulin sensitizers effect was seen only in women and not men. And it was more pronounced in women who took drugs in the class of insulin sensitizers known as thiazolidinediones, or TZDs, such as Avandia and Actos. This is baffling news considering the safety of both Avandia and Actos has been brought into question in recent years.
In 2010, European drug regulators banned Avandia and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) severely restricted its use after studies showed the drug was linked to fatal heart attacks. Earlier this month, the FDA lifted some of the restrictions on Avandia while admitting there was still some “uncertainty” surrounding the drug’s cardiovascular safety.
In 2011, the agency issued a warning that Actos increased the risk of bladder cancer, especially in patients who used the drug long-term.
Researchers say that it is too early to say whether there is a definite relationship between type 2 diabetes drugs and cancer prevention, but the information may help physicians better determine how to treat their diabetic patients.
Source: LA Times