Review Article

Metformin in cancer prevention and therapy

Jacek Kasznicki, Agnieszka Sliwinska, Józef Drzewoski


The prevalence of diabetes is dramatically increasing worldwide. The results of numerous epidemiological studies indicate that diabetic population is not only at increased risk of cardiovascular complications, but also at substantially higher risk of many forms of malignancies. The use of metformin, the most commonly prescribed drug for type 2 diabetes, was repeatedly associated with the decreased risk of the occurrence of various types of cancers, especially of pancreas and colon and hepatocellular carcinoma. This observation was also confirmed by the results of numerous meta-analyses. There are however, several unanswered questions regarding the exact mechanism of the anticancer effect of metformin as well as its activity against various types of cancer both in diabetic and nondiabetic populations. In the present work we discuss the proposed mechanism(s) of anticancer effect of metformin and preclinical and clinical data suggesting its anticancer effect in different populations.