March 2024

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Health Capsule

Diabetes Drug May Reduce Colorectal Cancer Risk

People with obesity are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes and other health problems. Certain drugs that help keep diabetes symptoms in check also promote weight loss. These are called GLP-1RAs. Examples include Ozempic, Trulicity, Wegovy, and Zepbound.

People with obesity are also at higher risk for colorectal cancer. Scientists wondered whether people who take GLP-1RAs for diabetes also have a reduced risk for colorectal cancer.

To find out, researchers examined the medical records of more than 1.2 million people with type 2 diabetes. They followed available patient records for up to 15 years. They compared the risk of colorectal cancer among people taking seven different types of drugs.

The analysis showed that people with diabetes who took GLP-1RAs had a lower risk of colorectal cancer than those taking other diabetes drugs. The protection was greatest in people with overweight or obesity. People in this group who took GLP-1RAs had a 50% lower risk of colorectal cancer than those who took insulin to manage their diabetes. They had a 42% lower risk than those who took the common diabetes drug metformin.

“This research is critically important for reducing incidence of colorectal cancer in patients with diabetes, with or without overweight and obesity,” says Dr. Nathan Berger, who co-lead the study along with Dr. Rong Xu at Case Western Reserve University. More research is needed to confirm these results and learn more about how these drugs work.

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