For his part, Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, described the findings as "interesting" and "significant."
"It does need to be looked at in a larger population, as the authors note," he said. "But meanwhile I think there are two things here worth discussing. One is obviously that there seems to be a reduction in pancreatic cancer among metformin users. But the other issue is the suggestion -- which is not a finding, but a suggestion -- that people on insulin actually have an increased risk for pancreatic cancer."
"Now on this second point it has to be said that people on insulin are generally people who are also overweight and obese," Lichtenfeld stressed. "And that in and of itself is a risk factor for pancreatic cancer. So there are a lot of other interactions in there that could possibly explain the findings. And they need to be explored."
There's more on the causes and treatment of diabetes at the American Diabetes Association.
SOURCES: Donghui Li, Ph.D., professor, department of gastrointestinal medical oncology, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston; Len Lichtenfeld, M.D., FACP, deputy chief medical officer, American Cancer Society, Atlanta; August 2009 Gastroenterology
All rights reserved