Certain Types of Anti-Diabetic Medication Fuel Cancer Growth in Type 2 Diabetic Patients

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By Roshni Mahesh | December 7, 2013 12:56 AM EST

Following a specific diabetic medication can help lower cancer risk in women suffering from type 2 diabetes, latest research shows.

The Cleveland Clinic study, while analysing the factors that increased risk of cancer in type 2 diabetic patients, found that certain popular anti-diabetes drugs played a major role in this occurrence. The analysis concentrated on insulin sensitisers and insulin secretagogues - the two groups of drugs commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes.  

Insulin secretagogues are anti-diabetic drugs that help manage blood sugar by increasing the production of insulin in the body. The drugs work by stimulating the pancreatic beta cells. On the other hand, insulin sensitisers help manage the condition by lowering insulin levels. The drugs achieve this by increasing muscle, fat and liver response to insulin. 

For the study, the authors looked at 25,613 diabetic patients included in the Cleveland Clinic Diabetes Registry and cross indexed the data with 48,051 cases of cancer included in the histology-based tumor registry. The eight-year study identified nearly 890 cases of cancer linked to diabetes. At the end, researchers found an increased risk of cancer associated with the insulin secretagogue medication.

Insulin sensitisers were found safer than insulin secretagogues, and were associated with a 21 percent decreased risk of cancer than the latter. Interestingly, thiazolidinedione, an insulin sensitiser protected women against cancer (32 percent lowered risk) than an insulin secretagogue known as sulphonylurea. "What this study shows us is that using insulin secretagogues to increase insulin production correlates with an increased cancer risk in women with type 2 diabetes," Sangeeta Kashyap, who was involved with the study, said in a news release.

"By contrast, insulin sensitisers cut insulin levels and can decrease cancer growth. So, clearly, when prescribing anti-diabetic medications, it's important to consider the impact a drug has on fueling cancer growth."

The study has been published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.

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