Diabetes, insulin treatment, and cancer risk: what is the evidence?

Madona Azar, Timothy J Lyons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Diabetes, in particular type 2, is associated with an increased incidence of cancer. Although the mortality attributable to cancer in type 2 diabetes is overshadowed by that due to cardiovascular disease, emerging data from epidemiologic studies suggest that insulin therapy may confer added risk for cancer, perhaps mediated by signaling through the IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1) receptor. Co-administered metformin seems to mitigate the risk associated with insulin. A recent series of publications in Diabetologia addresses the possibility that glargine, the most widely used long-acting insulin analogue, may confer a greater risk than other insulin preparations, particularly for breast cancer. This has led to a heated controversy. Despite this, there is a consensus that the currently available data are not conclusive and should not be the basis for any change in practice. Further studies and more thorough surveillance of cancer in diabetes are needed to address this important issue.
Original languageEnglish
JournalF1000 medicine reports
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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