New evidence suggests there is no overall risk of cancer in people who take SGLT2 inhibitor drugs.
Scientists from Indiana University reviewed 46 clinical trials involving more than 34,000 participants and found SGLT2 inhibitors, a type 2 diabetes drug class often prescribed alongside other medications such as metformin, were not directly linked with any type of cancer.
SGLT2 inhibitors helps to lower blood glucose levels by preventing the kidneys from reabsorbing glucose back into the blood. They have also been shown to have benefits for weight loss.
The research, which is the first meta-analysis examining the associated risk of cancer with SGLT2 inhibitors using all available randomized clinical trials, investigated the safety of Forxiga (dapagliflozin), Invokana (canagliflozin) and Jardiance (empagliflozin) for people with type 2 diabetes.
The study team looked for all types of cancers including skin, breast, bladder, prostate and renal. They found there were 580 cancer incidences among the 34,569 individuals. Whilst there was a higher rate of cancers within the SGLT2 users, the difference in cancer rates was not sufficient to be statistically significant.
In terms of individual forms of cancer, the results indicated a statistically significant increased risk of bladder cancer for the drugs. However, incidence of some forms of cancer were lower which explains why the overall risk of cancer was not higher to a significant degree.
“Our study provides the latest evidence about the association between use of SGLT2 inhibitors and risk of cancer and will help physicians and patients to better understand the risk when choosing these drugs,” said study co-author Professor Yiqing Song, professor of epidemiology at the Fairbanks School of Public Health and a researcher at the IU Simon Cancer Center.
Although they found no link between SGLT2s and the overall risk of cancer, the authors said longer-term studies into the treatments were still required.
“Given rapidly increasing use of SGLT2 inhibitors, it is our hope that long-term safety of its use be carefully monitored in future clinical trials and real-world settings,” added Song.
The results have been published in the online journal Diabetologia.

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