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A study finds that people with type 2 diabetes who took semaglutide were less likely to develop certain cancers. Luis Alvarez/Getty Images Photo
  • New research finds that people with type 2 diabetes, who take semaglutide, may be less likely to develop certain forms of cancer.
  • The researchers studied 13 cancers linked to obesity. They found that people on semaglutide had a decreased risk of developing 10 of these cancers.
  • Experts say that more research is needed.

New research published July 5 in the journal of the American Medical Association has found evidence that the use of semaglutide medications, like Ozempic and Wegovy may help reduce the risk of obesity-associated cancers in people with type 2 diabetes.

In the study, researchers studied 13 cancers linked to obesity.

They found people taking semaglutide had less risk of developing 10 of these obesity-associated cancers. These cancers included esophageal, colorectal, endometrial, gallbladder, kidney, liver, ovarian, and pancreatic cancer, plus meningioma and multiple myeloma.

However, semaglutide was not linked to a significantly reduced risk of developing thyroid, stomach, or breast cancer.

Yoni Resnick, PharmD, the director of pharmacy clinical services with New England Cancer Specialists, says that these results are encouraging.

“It’s exciting to see that, there might be…some smoke as it relates to these medications, potentially reducing the risk of some cancers that have historically been statistically related to obesity,” Resnick said.

The study, which pulled from the medical data of 1,651,452 patients across 13 years, compared those with type 2 diabetes who had been prescribed a GLP-1, insulin, or metformin.

Jennie Stanford, MD an obesity medicine physician for InteliHealth, who previously worked within the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre system, said we’re just starting to understand how GLP-1 drugs can impact your health.

“I think we’re at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding the benefits of the GLP-1 receptor agonists,” Stanford said. “As we learn more and more about what they’re able to do, I think we’ll be able to see possibilities for using them in dementia, in obesity-associated cancers and other medical problems that are linked back to the same underlying mechanism.”

One of the study’s authors, Lindsey Wang, a student at the Center for Science, Health, and Society, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio said that people using semaglutide did not have a lower risk among all obesity-associated cancers.

“Most notably, we saw a decrease [of] significant risk across most gastrointestinal cancers. So, that goes all the way from your esophagus down to your colon. This is pretty interesting because these cancers usually have a poor prognosis after you are diagnosed with it,” Wang said. “Something that did surprise us a little was that we found no association between using these GLP-1 RA’s [receptor agonists] and your breast cancer risk, which was contrary to our initial expectation.”

The research team found that people with type 2 diabetes on GLP-1 drugs compared to those on insulin had reduced risk of multiple cancers including the following.

  • 65% reduced risk of gallbladder cancer
  • 63% reduced risk of meningioma
  • 59% reduced risk of pancreatic cancer
  • 53% reduced risk of a type of liver cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma.
  • 48% reduced risk of ovarian cancer
  • 46% reduced risk of colorectal cancer
  • 41% reduced risk of multiple myeloma
  • 40% reduced risk of esophageal cancer
  • 26% reduced risk of endometrial cancer
  • 24% reduced risk of kidney cancer.

The team behind the study concluded that more research, including pre-clinical and clinical trials, are needed to build on these findings

Stanford says that one finding that jumped out at her was the decreased risk of gallbladder cancer.

“We know that obesity is a huge factor in gallbladder disease,” Stanford said. “So think about that in terms of gallstones and gallbladder function, but it stands to reason that that would occur for gallbladder cancer as well.”

Wang, an undergraduate student says the research group she belongs to at Ohio’s Case Western University are now looking at GLP-1 agonists and their role when it comes to cancer outcomes.

Resnick says that these findings, should they be confirmed by further research, may make a difference in his oncology practice’s high risk group. He also says that these GLP-1 medications are becoming a more common talking point among oncologists.

“You can leverage this kind of data that says, obesity is directly associated with…this group of cancers,” Resnick said. “By offering this type of weight reduction medication as compared to other types of medications… You’re reducing the risk for cancer, thus improving the overall health of the population, cutting healthcare costs, all of those well-known talking points.”

New research published in has found evidence that the use of semaglutide medications, like Ozempic may help reduce the risk of obesity-associated cancers in people with type 2 diabetes.