Metformin, a popular diabetic medication known for its glucose-lowering properties, could be beneficial in preventing blood cancer, a study revealed.

Studies show that the use of metformin extends beyond diabetes to conditions like gum disease, muscle atrophy, long COVID, and for promoting healthy aging.

The surprising potential of metformin for cancer prevention emerged after researchers found an association between metformin use and a reduced risk of myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN), a rare type of blood cancer that can progress to acute leukemia.

MPN occurs when the body makes too many red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets. This leads to bleeding problems, excessive risk of stroke, heart attack, and organ damage.

"Our team was interested in understanding what other effects we see with commonly prescribed treatments like metformin. The anti-inflammatory effect of metformin interested us, as MPNs are very inflammatory diseases. This is the first study to investigate the association between metformin use and the risk of MPN," said corresponding author, Dr. Anne Stidsholt Roug, from the Aalborg University Hospital in Denmark.

To understand the link between metformin use and MPN diagnosis, the researchers used data from Danish health registries, comparing 3,816 cases of MPN with over 19,000 controls who did not have the condition.

A little more than 8% of the control group had taken metformin, compared to 7% of people who had MPN. Among the control group, 2% had taken metformin for more than 5 years, while only 1.1% had taken it long-term in those who developed MPN.

"A dose-response relationship supported the association with increasing treatment duration, in particular ≥5 years," the researchers noted.

The researchers noted that even after adjusting for potential confounding factors, the protective effect of metformin was still observed in all MPN subtypes. The largest effect was seen in the subtypes polycythemia vera (PV), and essential thrombocythemia (ET).

"A dose-response relationship was observed when the cumulative duration of treatment was analyzed, and this was consistent in stratified analyses of sex, age, and MPN subtypes. In conclusion, metformin use was associated with significantly lower odds of an MPN diagnosis, indicating its potential cancer-preventive effect. Due to the retrospective design, causality cannot be inferred," they concluded.