Worldwide, both cancer and diabetes are major public health issues.
Diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness, kidney disease, heart disease, neuropathy, and gangrene, while cancer continues to kill more and more people. In the United States, approximately 1 in 4 people die from cancer.
Researchers have been looking for a potential link between diabetes, diabetes drugs, and cancer.
A paper published in 2012 in the journal of American Health & Drug Benefits (AHDB) reviewed a literature on the potential link between diabetes drugs and cancer risk.
There is growing evidence that diabetics are at greater risk of developing cancer. However, the exact mechanism of how diabetic patients develop cancer is unknown.
Since there is a potential correlation between diabetes and cancer, researchers are conducting studies to evaluate the cancer risk of diabetes medications.
There have been several studies showing a correlation between some diabetes drugs and the development of cancer, but there is no direct evidence that these drugs cause cancer.
Therefore, patients should continue using diabetes drugs to keep their blood sugar under control, because “the correlation between uncontrolled diabetes and cancer is stronger than the correlation between medications for diabetes and cancer,” according to NIH.
However, recently a widely used diabetes drug metformin has been recalled after manufacturers found the drug was tainted with unacceptably high levels of a carcinogen called N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA).
Last month, Indian pharmaceutical company Marksans Pharma Ltd. recalled metformin extended-release tablets because they found to have higher levels of NDMA. The FDA has been investigating how NDMA has been ending up in metformin tablets.
Metformin is one of the most commonly prescribed type 2 diabetes drugs, which is designed to lower blood sugar levels.
Marksans said, “Consumers taking this recalled product should continue taking it until a doctor or pharmacist gives them a replacement or a different treatment option. It could be dangerous for patients with type 2 diabetes to stop taking their metformin without first talking to their health care professional.” Apart from Marksans, at least seven other manufacturers have issued recalls of metformin tablets due to a potential risk of cancer.