Diabetes meds linked to pancreatic cancer

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

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  • 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

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