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Does metformin lower cancer risk?

Diabetes UK is funding new research to determine whether a popular diabetes drug can prevent one out of three cases of cancer in people with Type 2 diabetes.

Research has shown that people with Type 2 diabetes could have up to a 27 per cent increased risk of developing cancer.

We are funding researchers from the University of Oxford to establish if links between usage of metformin and a lowering of an increased risk of cancer for people with Type 2 diabetes by 30 per cent are definitive.

Concrete evidence needed

 “The complications of diabetes are commonly thought of in terms of the heart, eyes, nerves and kidneys. However some people with diabetes could also be at higher risk of developing cancer than those without the condition,” said Dr Richard Stevens, lead researcher at the University of Oxford.

“Many studies have suggested that metformin lowers the risk of cancer by 30 per cent in people with Type 2 diabetes, but to date there has been nothing to back up this claim. Our approach aims to provide solid evidence to validate these claims. It is hoped our findings will be able to help develop a means of tackling the increased risk of cancer, alongside the other complications of diabetes, while also shedding light on pathways and mechanisms for wider cancer research,” he added.

Important research

Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, said: “We know that good diabetes management can help to prevent the serious complications diabetes can lead to such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness and amputation. However, while there are various approaches to minimise the effects diabetes can have on specific organs, little is known about what preventative measures can reduce the risk people with diabetes face of developing some forms of cancer.

“This is why Dr Stevens’ work at the University of Oxford is so important. If it is found that metformin can help to reduce the risk people with Type 2 diabetes have of developing cancer, then this will be a big step forward in terms of how we can help people manage the condition and hopefully allow us to develop a means to tackle the increased risk for all people with diabetes. It will also be important to understand the effects of metformin on its own and in combination with insulin and other treatments.”

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