Newly completed research published in the scientific journal JAMA Oncology (Journal of the American Medical Association)  showed that diabetic patients who took GLP-1 agonist medications had a 44% lower risk of Colorectal cancer compared to other type 2 diabetics. Having diabetes has long been known to increase the risk of colorectal cancer and learning how to best address this risk has been an important question that has needed to be answered. Treating diabetics optimally to control the condition is one attempt to address this problem, but beyond simply controlling diabetes, this study seems to indicate that treating diabetics  with the particular class of medications known as GLP-1 agonists may lower the risk of colorectal cancer more than for those using other diabetes medications. Specifically in this study participants were found to have a 25% lower risk utilizing the GLP-1 agonist medications, than patients who took the commonly prescribed diabetes medication  metformin.   https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaoncology/fullarticle/2812769#:~:text=In%20this%20cohort%20study%2C%20GLP,loss%20and%20other%20mechanisms%20not

Dr. Daniel Landau, is a  medical oncologist, Internal medicine and Hematology doctor. He states that “The exact reason why diabetes is a major risk factor for colorectal cancer remains elusive.Theories include that diabetes is a proinflammatory state, and inflammation is a risk for cancer… excessive exposure of tissue to endogenous sugars promotes an environment in which cancers can grow, and diabetes often coincides with other risk factors such as obesity.” He further explains, “what has not been clear is how effective treating diabetes is at alleviating the high risk of cancer. With the advent of the GLP1-medications, we now have some data that these therapies may be more effective at reducing the risk of colorectal cancer better than with the use of other medications.”


As to why these particular drugs are more effective at preventing colorectal cancer than other type 2 diabetes medications, Dr.  Landau speculates that since they are superior for promoting greater weight loss, that is what may be reflected in greater cancer prevention. There are a number of diabetes medications that fall under the heading of GLP-1 agonists. Victoza and Trulicity have been around for a longer period of time than the newer approved medications like Ozempic,Wegovy (Semaglutide) https://drsobo.com/shortages-of-the-weight-loss-drugs-wegovy-ozempic-and-mounjaro/, and Mounjaro  ( Tirzepatide). https://drsobo.com/tirzepatide-a-breakthrough-in-weight-loss/   The newer medications have become very popular because of their superior effectiveness in  helping people lose weight, and the GLP-1 agonist in Mounjaro-Trizepatide has now gotten FDA approval as a weight loss drug being called Zepbound  https://drsobo.com/zepbound-the-new-fda-approved-weight-loss-medication/

Because obesity is linked to Type2 Diabetes as well as being a cancer risk, there are many researchers and diabetes specialists who are coming to the belief that it may very well be that these GLP-1 agonist medications show a greater benefit beyond diabetes control because of the hormonal effects that result in greater weight loss for patients who take them. Dr. Wael Harb aN Oncologist/ Hematologist and  who was not involved in the study says, “The study presents a potentially groundbreaking development in understanding the relationship between diabetes treatment and cancer prevention. As a physician in the biopharma industry, I find these initial findings promising. However, it’s crucial to emphasize that these are preliminary results and they need to be validated through larger, more comprehensive studies before being considered for clinical application.”

Dr. Anton Bilchik, a surgical oncologist called the study’s finding “important and provocative” as they  contribute to our understanding of colorectal cancer itself. “These drugs are being used with more frequency given the profound impact on weight reduction. If there is a reduction in the development of colorectal cancer through independent mechanisms, this study may provide scientists an opportunity to better understand the cause of colorectal cancer.”

Colorectal cancer risk

According to the American Cancer SocietyTrusted Source there are approximately 150,000 new cases of colorectal cancer each year and more than 52,000 deaths. Approximately two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or have obesity. Obesity itself is a risk factor for a wide variety of cancers including breast, uterine, kidney, gallbladder, liver and pancreatic cancers as well as colorectal cancer. Approximately 4-8% of all cancers are obesity related,  and there is a 17% increased risk of cancer-specific deaths. The NIH (National Institutes of Health) states ,”Weight-reducing strategies in obesity-associated cancers are important interventions as a key component of cancer  care https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9857053/#:~:text=Obesity%20has%20been%20linked%20to,cancers%20are%20attributed%20to%20obesity.

This of course makes weight reduction all the more important, even with all the other reasons to lose weight (of which there are many).  The experts say the best way to reduce your colorectal cancer risk is to avoid obesity and type 2 diabetes, adopt a healthy diet and get regular medical check-ups.

 Dr. Misagh Karimi, a medical oncologist specializing in gastrointestinal cancers says, “Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide and in the U.S. we are seeing how rates are rising among people younger than 50To lower the risk of colorectal cancer, it’s important to eat a nutritious diet with fruits and vegetables, stay physically active, limit the consumption of alcohol, and not smoke tobacco.”  And he highly recommends patients obtain early screening by physicians as diagnosis of the condition at an early stage is crucial for survival if one is diagnosed wth colorectal cancer.

Obesity is on the rise in younger people in our society, and it seems that the diagnosis of colorectal cancers is happening in greater numbers for younger people. Therefore, there may be greater emphasis on the use of Semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy) and Zepbound or Mounjaro (tirzepatide) to be prescribed for weight loss, as reducing the risk of colon cancer  may be an additional benefit.

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