Cancer risk associated with use of metformin and sulfonylurea in type 2 diabetes: A meta-analysis

Davide Soranna, Lorenza Scotti, Antonella Zambon, Cristina Bosetti, Guido Grassi, Alberico Catapano, Carlo La Vecchia, Giuseppe Mancia, Giovanni Corrao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective. Oral antidiabetic drugs (including metformin and sulfonylurea) may play a role in the relationship between type 2 diabetes and cancer. To quantify the association between metformin and sulfonylurea and the risk of cancer, we performed a meta-analysis of available studies on the issue. Materials and Methods. We performed a MEDLINE search for observational studies that investigated the risk of all cancers and specific cancer sites in relation to use of metformin and/or sulfonylurea among patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Fixed- and random-effect models were fitted to estimate the summary relative risk (RR). Betweenstudy heterogeneity was tested using Χ 2 statistics and measured with the I 2 statistic. Publication bias was evaluated using funnel plot and Egger's regression asymmetry test. Results. Seventeen studies satisfying inclusion criteria and including 37,632 cancers were evaluated after reviewing 401 citations. Use of metformin was associated with significantly decreased RR of all cancers (summary RR 0.61, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.54-0.70), colorectal cancer (0.64, 95% CI 0.54 - 0.76), and pancreatic cancer (0.38, 95% CI 0.14-0.91). With the exception of colorectal cancer, significant between-study heterogeneity was observed. Evidence of publication bias for metformincancer association was also observed. There was no evidence that metformin affects the risk of breast and prostate cancers, nor that sulfonylurea affects the risk of cancer at any site. Conclusions. Metformin, but not sulfonylurea, appears to reduce subsequent cancer risk. This has relevant implications in light of the exploding global epidemic of diabetes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-822
Number of pages10
JournalThe oncologist
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Meta-analysis
  • Metformin
  • Oral antidiabetic therapy
  • Sulfonylurea

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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