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Popular drug that treats diabetes can reduce blood cancer risk

A new study has found the cancer preventive property of metformin, a common diabetes drug. The study by Danish researchers has found an association between metformin use and decreased risk of MPN or myeloproliferative neoplasm, a rare type of blood cancer.

"Many other studies have investigated the association between metformin use and risk of solid cancers, and meta-analyses suggest a relative risk reduction at a magnitude of 30-55% for specific cancer sites including colorectal, liver, pancreatic, stomach, and esophagus cancer in addition to reduced risk of cancer-related death," the researchers have said. "Metformin either as single agent or combined with cytotoxic, endocrine, or targeted therapy has also been investigated in a handful of solid cancers where most have failed to demonstrate clinical benefit of metformin," they have added.

For the study, the researchers observed 3,816 cases and 19,080 controls. "Metformin, an oral biguanide-derivate used in in the treatment of type-2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) or metabolic syndrome, has become so widely used over the past decades that the drug is now among the most prescribed drugs in Denmark, they have said.

Lesser known benefits of Metformin
Beyond its primary use for managing type 2 diabetes, metformin has several lesser-known benefits. It shows promise in reducing cancer risk, particularly for colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers.

Metformin also appears to have anti-aging effects, potentially extending lifespan by improving cellular health. It can aid in weight loss and improve polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) symptoms by regulating menstrual cycles and improving fertility. Emerging research suggests metformin may enhance cardiovascular health by reducing the risk of heart disease.

It has potential neuroprotective effects, possibly lowering the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.

How does metformin work?

Metformin primarily works by reducing glucose production in the liver, thereby lowering blood sugar levels. It enhances insulin sensitivity, allowing muscles and fat cells to absorb glucose more effectively. Metformin also decreases the absorption of glucose from the intestines. By activating the enzyme AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), it helps regulate the body’s energy balance and cellular metabolism. These combined actions reduce insulin resistance and improve blood sugar control without causing significant weight gain. Metformin’s multi-faceted mechanism makes it a cornerstone treatment for type 2 diabetes and contributes to its potential benefits in other conditions.