Diabetes Drugs Cut Colon Cancer Risk

Thiazolidinediones for diabetes associated with reduced risk of colon cancer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) There are many factors to think about when prescribing drugs to diabetes patients. One of these factors is the cancer risk of a particular drug; or in some cases, the cancer-preventing powers of that drug.

A certain class of diabetes drugs may lower the risk of colon cancer, according to findings from a team of Taiwanese researchers.

"Ask your doctor about the side effects of your medications."

Shih-Wei Chen, MD, of National Taiwan University College of Public Health, and colleagues wanted to see if using thiazolidinediones (a class of drugs used to treat insulin resistance) was associated with a risk of developing colon cancer.

Insulin is a natural hormone that helps manage levels of sugar in the blood. In people with diabetes, the body either does not produce insulin or does not use insulin the way it should. When the body does not use insulin properly, it is called insulin resistance.

Thiazolidinediones - such as Actos or Avandia - are used to treat insulin resistance in people with diabetes.

Some evidence has suggested that thiazolidinediones may have anti-cancer properties, said Dr. Chen and colleagues in background information to their study.

From their study, the researchers found that diabetes patients who had taken thiazolidinediones had a lower risk of colon cancer than those who had never taken thiazolidinediones, with an odds ratio of 0.86.

An odds ratio explains the odds that one group has of a certain event compared to another. In this case, the event was colon cancer. An odds ratio of less than 1.0 means that the first group has lower odds than the second group.

Results of the study also showed that patients who had taken thiazolidinediones with low doses of aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) had a lower risk of colon cancer.

"The use of thiazolidinediones may be associated with a decreased risk of colon cancer in patients with diabetes," the authors concluded. However, they said more research is needed to confirm the findings.

The study - which included more than 24,000 participants - was published October 5 in Diabetes Care, a journal of the American Diabetes Association.

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Review Date: 
October 10, 2012
Last Updated:
October 14, 2012