Metformin May Help Reduce the Risk of Developing Myeloproliferative Neoplasms

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Treatment with metformin may be associated with a lower risk of developing myeloproliferative neoplasms over time, according to a recent study published by Kristensen et al in Blood Advances.


Myeloproliferative neoplasms are a group of diseases that develop over long periods of time and affect how bone marrow produces blood cells, resulting in an overproduction of red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets that can lead to bleeding problems, a greater risk of stroke or heart attack, and organ damage.

Metformin—a therapy used to treat high blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes—works by increasing the effect of insulin, reducing how much glucose is released from the liver, and increasing the body’s glucose absorption.

Previous analyses have demonstrated that the therapy may reduce the risk of gastrointestinal cancer, breast cancer, urologic cancer, as well as other solid tumors and hematologic malignancies.

“Our team was interested in understanding what other effects we see with commonly prescribed treatments like metformin,” explained senior study author Anne Stidsholt Roug, MD, PhD, Clinical Associate Professor at Aalborg University Hospital and Chief Physician at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark. “The anti-inflammatory effect of metformin interested us, as [myeloproliferative neoplasms] are very inflammatory diseases,” she added.

Study Methods and Results

In the recent study, investigators examined metformin use among 3,816 patients diagnosed with myeloproliferative neoplasms and 19,080 matched controls from the Danish general population between 2010 and 2018.

The investigators found that 7.0% (n = 268) of the patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms and 8.2% (n = 1,573) controls received metformin. Just 1.1% of the patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms had received the therapy for over 5 years vs 2.0% of controls. After adjusting for potential confounders, the investigators noted that the protective effect of metformin was observed in all subtypes of myeloproliferative neoplasms.


“We were surprised by the magnitude of the association we saw in the data,” emphasized lead study author Daniel Tuyet Kristensen, MD, a PhD student at Aalborg University Hospital. “We saw the strongest effect in [patients] who had taken metformin for more than 5 years as compared [with] those who had taken the treatment for less than 1 year,” he added.

The investigators revealed that the study was limited by its registry-based retrospective design and an inability to account for lifestyle factors influencing cancer risk such as smoking, obesity, and dietary habits. They hope to conduct additional studies to better understand the mechanisms behind the therapy’s protective effects against the development of myeloproliferative neoplasms. The investigators further plan to identify any similar trends with myelodysplastic syndromes and acute myeloid leukemia in population-level data in future studies.

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.