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New study finds GLP-1 drugs lower risk of certain cancers

Posted at 3:18 PM, Jul 08, 2024

A new study shows popular weight-loss drugs and diabetes medications like Ozempic and Wegovy may also help lower the risk of certain cancers. The research focused on people with type 2 diabetes and their chance of getting cancers linked to obesity.

This is very encouraging news. We’ve talked a lot about these semaglutide medications that belong to a drug class called “GLP-1.”  As you mentioned, Ozempic and Wegovy are among the most popular.
This new study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and was based on the medical records of nearly 1.7 million people with type 2 diabetes over a period of 13 years. The research found that patients who took the GLP-1 drugs were less likely to develop some forms of cancer associated with obesity.

Now there are 13 types of cancer that overweight or obese people are at higher risk of getting. That risk increases the longer a person is overweight and the more excess weight they gain. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says about 40% of new cancer diagnoses are associated with excess weight.  
The study found that people with type 2 diabetes who were taking the GLP-1 drugs were significantly less likely to be diagnosed with 10 of these cancers compared to those who took insulin. These include gallbladder, pancreatic, colorectal, ovarian, esophageal, endometrial, liver, and kidney cancers, along with meningioma and multiple myeloma. Amazingly, the risk was cut by 24% to 65%, depending upon the type of cancer.  
Surprisingly, the GLP-1 treatment did not reduce the risk for the cancer most associated with obesity: postmenopausal breast cancer.
The research also found the risk was not lowered for stomach cancer and thyroid cancer. In fact, other studies have shown these semaglutide medications may interact with the body’s insulin production in a way that is harmful to the thyroid.
On another interesting note, the new study also found the cancer risk for people with type 2 diabetes was the same among those who received the GLP-1 treatment and others who took Metformin, which is a diabetes drug that lowers blood sugar levels.
So, while this is an exciting development, there’s still more research and clinical trials that must be done to learn more about the potential benefits of the GLP-1 drugs in reducing the risk for certain cancers.
In the meantime, as I tell my patients, do what you can today to reach and maintain a healthy weight by eating right, exercising and living a healthy lifestyle.