Skip to main content
Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

Metformin Use for Type 2 Diabetes May Reduce Cancer Risk in Myotonic Dystrophy Type 1

, by DCEG Staff

Round, white medication pills

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) in patients with myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) was associated with excess risk of cancer, but metformin use may possibly reduce this risk, according to findings in the International Journal of Cancer on November 20, 2019.

DM1 is a heritable neuromuscular disorder that is associated with increased cancer risk and insulin resistance, a known risk factor for T2D. Prior studies in the general population have reported an association between T2D and increased cancer risk; the association of T2D and cancer among patients with DM1 was not known. Using data from the United Kingdom Clinical Practice Research Datalink, Rotana Alsaggaf, Ph.D., M.S., postdoctoral fellow, and Shahinaz Gadalla, M.D., Ph.D., Earl Stadtman tenure-track investigator in the Clinical Genetics Branch, with colleagues, found patients with DM1 were more than twice as likely to have T2D, compared with age matched individuals from the general population. DM1 patients with T2D had an increase in cancer risk, compared to DM1 patients with no diabetes. However, the risk in DM1 patients with T2D taking metformin was similar to those without diabetes.

These results show an association between T2D and cancer risk in patients with DM1 and may suggest metformin as possible chemoprevention in those patients. Further studies on metformin use and cancer risk in DM1 patients could yield important insights into DM1-related cancer prevention.


Alsaggaf R, et al. Diabetes, metformin, and cancer risk in myotonic dystrophy type 1. International Journal of Cancer. November 20, 2019. DOI: 10.1002/ijc.32801. [Epub ahead of print]