Weight Loss Drugs Lower Cancer Risk in Type 2 Diabetes Patients

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July 5, 2024 – Recent research on popular weight loss drugs has uncovered surprising benefits beyond their intended use, like lowering the risk of fatal heart attacks. And now there may be another unforeseen advantage: People with type 2 diabetes who took these drugs had a lower risk of having 10 out of 13 obesity-related cancers, compared to those who used insulin therapy.

That’s according to a study published Friday in JAMA Network Openwhere researchers studied glucagon-like peptide receptor agonists (known as GLP-1RAs), a class of drugs used to treat diabetes and obesity. Ozempic, Wegovy, Mounjaro, and Zepbound, which have become well-known recently because they are linked to rapid weight loss, contain GLP-1RAs.

For the study, they looked at electronic health records of 1.7 million patients who had type 2 diabetes, no prior diagnosis of obesity-related cancers, and had been prescribed GLP-1RAs, insulins, or metformin from March 2005 to November 2018. 

The scientists found that compared to patients who took insulin, people who took GLP-1RAs had a “significant risk reduction” in 10 of 13 obesity-related cancers. Those 10 cancers were esophageal, colorectal, endometrial, gallbladder, kidney, liver, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers, as well as meningioma and multiple myeloma. 

Compared to patients taking insulin, patients taking GLP-1RAs showed no statistically significant reduction in stomach cancer and no reduced risk of breast and thyroid cancers, the study said.

But the study found no decrease in cancer risk with GLP-1RAs compared to the drug metformin. (Metformin is used to lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.)

While the study results suggest that these drugs may reduce the risk of certain obesity-related cancers better than insulins, more research is needed, they said.