It is estimated that between four and six million South Africans suffer from diabetes, and many of those are not aware they have the disease. What’€™s more is that projected statistics for South Africa reveal a rapid increase in the incidence of diabetes especially with urbanisation of the African populations.

Earlier research has suggested that people with pancreatic cancer may have a higher risk of developing diabetes, however it is uncertain how diabetes, and the medicines used to treat it, affects a person’€™s risk for pancreatic cancer.

The study

In an attempt to answer that question, Dr Chistoph Meier and colleagues of the University Hospital Basel in Switzerland consulted the UK-based General Practice Research Database of more than 8 million people, including about 2800 who were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer between 1995 and 2009. They found that one in nine people with pancreatic cancer had a prior diagnosis of diabetes, while 2% of people with pancreatic cancer had been taking metformin before they were diagnosed.

When the researchers stratified subjects by gender, they found that significantly fewer women with a new diagnosis of pancreatic cancer had been taking metformin compared to a control group that has not.

The findings were reversed for insulin and sulfonylureas. Significantly more people with pancreatic cancer had a history of insulin use or sulfonylureas than cancer-free people.

The evidence suggests most people with type 2 diabetes who don’t have any medical reasons not to take metformin should be on the drug, either alone or in combination with other anti-diabetes medications.

Source: Reuters Health


  • Health-e News

    Health-e News is South Africa's dedicated health news service and home to OurHealth citizen journalism. Follow us on Twitter @HealtheNews