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New-onset type 2 diabetes, elevated HbA1c, anti-diabetic medications, and risk of pancreatic cancer



Associations between type 2 diabetes, anti-diabetic medications and pancreatic cancer are controversial. This study aims to clarify such associations with new-onset type 2 diabetes and repeated measurements of glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) levels.


A nested case-control study was initiated from the Health Improvement Network (THIN) in UK from 1996 to 2010. Information of pancreatic cancer cases was retrieved electronically from the medical records and manually validated. Control subjects were randomly selected and frequency-matched to the cases on sex, age, and calendar years. Multivariable unconditional logistic regression was performed to estimate odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI), and adjusted for potential confounders.


Among 1,574,768 person-years of follow-up, 529 pancreatic cancer cases and 5000 controls were identified. Type 2 diabetes, or changed HbA1c levels (rather than HbA1c levels at diabetes diagnosis) in diabetes patients (⩾4 mmol mol(-1) compared with <0 mmol mol(-1)) were followed by an increased OR of pancreatic cancer (OR, 2.16, 95% CI 1.72-2.72 and OR, 5.06, 95% CI 1.52-16.87, respectively). Among the anti-diabetic medications in diabetes patients, the OR for insulin users was 25.57 (95% CI 11.55-56.60), sulphonylureas 2.22 (95% CI 1.13, 4.40), and metformin users 1.46 (95% CI 0.85-2.52), compared with no use of any anti-diabetic medications.


New-onset type 2 diabetes and, particularly, diabetes with rising HbA1c seem to be independent risk factors for pancreatic cancer. The relation between different anti-diabetic medications and pancreatic cancer seems to vary in strength, with the highest risk among users of insulin.

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