Insulin may increase the risk of Pancreatic Cancer while Metformin may reduce this risk.

An excellent study from University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston showed that patients with Type 2 diabetes who used insulin were 5 times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer and those who used oral medicines that increase insulin secretion, such as sulfonylurea drugs (Glyburide, Glipizide, Glimepiride, etc ), were 2.5 times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.

On the other hand, patients who were on Metformin had a 62% lower risk for developing pancreatic cancer.

Comments by Dr. Zaidi:

No surprise! Type 2 diabetic patients are at increased risk for all kinds of cancer, including pancreatic cancer. Why? Because the root cause for Type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance which results in a high level of insulin in these patients.

Insulin causes an increase in the growth of cancer cells. Therefore, if you take insulin shots or oral pills that increase insulin production (drugs such as Glyburide, Glipizide or Glimepiride and other sulfonylurea drugs ), you are obviously adding fuel to the fire, increasing your risk for cancer.

On the other hand, if you treat insulin resistance, then your insulin level goes down and your risk for cancer also goes down.

Metformin treats insulin resistance. Therefore, it was no surprise that metformin caused a decrease in the risk for pancreatic cancer in this study.

Currently, there are only two anti-diabetic drugs that treat insulin resistance; These are Metformin (Glucophage) and Pioglitazone (Actos).

As I mentioned in my book, "Take Charge of Your Diabetes," I focus on treating insulin resistance. I rarely use pills that increase insulin production and almost never use insulin in my Type 2 diabetic patients.  


This article was written by Sarfraz Zaidi, MD, FACE. Dr. Zaidi specializes in Diabetes, photoEndocrinology and Metabolism.

Dr. Zaidi is a former assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCLA and Director of the Jamila Diabetes and Endocrine Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, California.


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