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Metformin May Lower Diabetics' Odds for Pancreatic Cancer
Date:8/2/2009

But another study finding suggests insulin treatment could boost the risk

SUNDAY, Aug. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Metformin, one of the most widely used diabetes drugs, may offer patients the added benefit of lowering their odds for pancreatic cancer by 60 percent, a new study shows.

But the study had a downside: Other common treatments, including the use of insulin or insulin-releasing medications such as sulfonylureas, seemed to boost diabetics' risk for the deadly malignancy.

"We have been long interested in the association between diabetes and pancreatic cancer," explained study lead author Donghui Li, a professor in the department of gastrointestinal medical oncology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. "It's a very complicated association because pancreatic cancer can cause diabetes, while on the other hand diabetics have a higher risk for pancreatic cancer. So it's been quite controversial, and the question is: What can we do to reduce this risk?"

"So here we found that if people use metformin they have a 60 percent lower risk for pancreatic cancer than those who have diabetes but never used metformin," Li said. "And that's quite a dramatic effect. And so far it's the only thing that we've seen that can reduce the risk for pancreatic cancer so much."

Li and her colleagues will publish their findings in the August issue of Gastroenterology.

Metformin is an extremely popular oral medication commonly prescribed for patients coping with type 2 diabetes. It goes by its generic name as well as brand names such as Glucophage, Riomet, Fortamet, Glumetza, Obimet, Dianben and Diabex.

Although there are several other treatment options available, the American Diabetes Association recommends metformin as a first-line treatment for type 2 diabetes.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 34,000 people die of pancreatic cancer each year. Even w
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