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Pharmacotherapy. 2010 Nov;30(11):1159-78. doi: 10.1592/phco.30.11.1159.

Diabetes mellitus and increased risk of cancer: focus on metformin and the insulin analogs.

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Pharmacy Service, Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, Murfreesboro Campus, Tennessee 37129, USA.


Type 2 diabetes mellitus has been associated with an increased risk of hepatic, pancreatic, colon, endometrial, breast, and bladder cancer. Although a mechanism of action for the increased risk has been postulated, no definitive evidence has been completely elucidated in the medical literature. Results of recently released studies documented the use of specific antidiabetic drugs with increased rates of cancer. The insulin analog glargine was the focus of four observational studies published in 2009 that outlined an increase in the rates of cancer associated with its use. In contrast, the use of metformin has been shown to possibly decrease the rate of specific cancers when used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. These data regarding cancer risk and antidiabetic drugs are contradictory and at this time are inconclusive. Until results of long-term randomized prospective studies are available to elucidate a correlation with cancer and insulin, we must continue treating diabetes in order to avert the long-term complications of the disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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