Lower risk of cancer in patients on metformin in comparison with those on sulfonylurea derivatives: results from a large population-based follow-up study

OBJECTIVE: Numerous studies have suggested a decreased risk of cancer in patients with diabetes on metformin. Because different comparison groups were used, the effect magnitude is difficult to estimate. Therefore, the objective of this study was tfurther analyze whether, and to what extent, use of metformin is associated with a decreased risk of cancer in a cohort of incident users of metformin compared with users of sulfonylurea derivatives. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: Data for this study wereobtained from dispensing records from community pharmacies individually linked to hospital discharge records from 2.5 million individuals in the Netherlands. The association between the risk of cancer in those using metformin compared with those using sulfonylurea derivatives was analyzed using Cox proportional hazard models with cumulative duration of drug use as a time-varying determinant. RESULTS: Use of metformin was associated with a lower risk of cancer in general (hazard ratio 0.90 [95% CI 0.88-0.91]) compared with use of sulfonylurea derivatives. When specific cancers were used as end points, similar estimates were found. Dosage-response relations were identified for users of metformin but not for users of sulfonylurea derivatives. CONCLUSIONS: In our study, cumulative exposure to metformin was associated with a lower risk of specific cancers and cancer in general, compared with cumulative exposure to sulfonylurea derivatives. However, whether this should indeed be seen as a decreased risk ofcancer for the use of metformin or as an increased risk of cancer for the use sulfonylurea derivatives remains to be elucidated.

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