Popular weight loss drugs could lower the risk of certain cancers, study finds

The findings emphasize the long-term health benefits of obesity-related cancers

With many consumers turning to Ozempic and other glucagon-like peptide receptor agonists (GLP-1RAs) for weight loss, a new study is looking at the ways these drugs have other health benefits. 

According to the findings from a recent study, for consumers with type 2 diabetes (T2D), taking a weight loss drug may also have a lower risk of developing nearly a dozen types of cancer that are commonly associated with obesity. 

“In this study of patients with T2D who were cancer-free at baseline, taking GLP-1RAs compared with insulin was associated with a lower risk of 10 of 13 obesity associated cancers,” the researchers wrote. “The potential cancer-preventive effects of obesity-associated cancers by GLP-1RAs warrant further long-term studies as well as studies of individual newer and possibly more effective antidiabetic and weight loss agents, as well as those with multi-hormone agonist activities.” 

Uncovering more health benefits

For the study, the researchers analyzed medical records of over 113 million consumers across the United States. When the study began, over 1.6 million participants had T2D, no prior history of cancer, and were taking either GLP-1RAs, insulin, or metformin for their diabetes. 

The researchers explained that there are 13 cancers that are most closely linked with obesity: esophageal, breast, colorectal, endometrial, gallbladder, stomach, kidney, ovarian, pancreatic, thyroid, hepatocellular carcinoma, meningioma, and multiple myeloma. 

After following the study participants for 15 years, the researchers found that GLP-1RAs were effective at slowing the risk of 10 of these 13 obesity-related cancers. 

The risk of gallbladder cancer, pancreatic cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, and meningioma was nearly cut in half for patients taking GLP-1RAs. Similarly, patients taking these drugs also had a lower risk of colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, multiple myeloma, esophageal cancer, and kidney cancer. 

The study didn’t show any link between GLP-1RAs and the risk of developing thyroid cancer, breast cancer, or stomach cancer. 

“These findings provide preliminary evidence of the potential benefit of GLP-1RAs for cancer prevention in high-risk populations and support further preclinical and clinical studies for the prevention of certain obesity-associated cancers,” the researchers explained. 

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