Complex link between diabetes drugs and pancreatic cancer risk

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Complex link between diabetes drugs and pancreatic cancer risk

Diabetes is considered both a risk factor and a symptom of pancreatic cancer. A recent study looked at the association between several diabetes drugs and the risk of pancreatic cancer. The authors concluded that taking the diabetes drug metformin resulted in a small but statistically significant decrease in the risk of being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer for women, but not for men, a result that was described as “unexpected” since there is no known biological basis that would explain this difference. Other diabetes drugs, however, like sulfonylureas and the administration of insulin itself, led to a slightly increased risk of pancreatic cancer in both men and women. This result was consistent with other studies, and the difference between metformin and these other diabetes drugs is believed to be due to a difference in the way they act to treat diabetes.

The results were published in the January 31, 2012 issue of American Journal of Gastroenterology. The analyses primarily took place in the laboratory of Christoph Meier, PhD at the University Hospital Basel in Switzerland.

Dr. Meier and colleagues utilized data from the General Practice Research Database (GPRD). The GPRD is a large database from the United Kingdom, including anonymous medical information (demographics, therapy, treatment response, etc) on over eight million individuals. The investigators identified individuals who were first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer between 1995 and 2009 and were under the age of 90, and found 2,763 patients. For each patient, they selected six control individuals (people who had not been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer) with matching characteristics like age and gender, to conduct comparisons.

Further experiments will be necessary to understand the complex relationship between diabetes, diabetes drugs, and pancreatic cancer risk.

For more information about this study or other questions about pancreatic cancer risk factors, diagnosis, or treatment, please contact a PanCAN Patient Services Case Manager toll-free at 877-272-6226 or email patientservices@pancan.org. PanCAN Patient Services Case Managers are available M-F 7am-5pm Pacific Time.

Please click here for the scientific abstract.