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Cancer Risk in Diabetic Patients Treated with Metformin: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

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      A growing body of evidence has suggested that metformin potentially reduces the risk of cancer. Our objective was to enhance the precision of estimates of the effect of metformin on the risk of any-site and site-specific cancers in patients with diabetes.

      Methods/Principal Findings

      We performed a search of MEDLINE, EMBASE, ISI Web of Science, Cochrane Library, and for pertinent articles published as of October 12, 2011, and included them in a systematic review and meta-analysis. We calculated pooled risk ratios (RRs) for overall cancer mortality and cancer incidence. Of the 21,195 diabetic patients reported in 6 studies (4 cohort studies, 2 RCTs), 991 (4.5%) cases of death from cancer were reported. A total of 11,117 (5.3%) cases of incident cancer at any site were reported among 210,892 patients in 10 studies (2 RCTs, 6 cohort studies, 2 case-control studies). The risks of cancer among metformin users were significantly lower than those among non-metformin users: the pooled RRs (95% confidence interval) were 0.66 (0.49–0.88) for cancer mortality, 0.67 (0.53–0.85) for all-cancer incidence, 0.68 (0.53–0.88) for colorectal cancer (n = 6), 0.20 (0.07–0.59) for hepatocellular cancer (n = 4), 0.67 (0.45–0.99) for lung cancer (n = 3).


      The use of metformin in diabetic patients was associated with significantly lower risks of cancer mortality and incidence. However, this analysis is mainly based on observational studies and our findings underscore the more need for long-term RCTs to confirm this potential benefit for individuals with diabetes.

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      Most cited references 99

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      Meta-analysis of observational studies in epidemiology: a proposal for reporting. Meta-analysis Of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (MOOSE) group.

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      Because of the pressure for timely, informed decisions in public health and clinical practice and the explosion of information in the scientific literature, research results must be synthesized. Meta-analyses are increasingly used to address this problem, and they often evaluate observational studies. A workshop was held in Atlanta, Ga, in April 1997, to examine the reporting of meta-analyses of observational studies and to make recommendations to aid authors, reviewers, editors, and readers. Twenty-seven participants were selected by a steering committee, based on expertise in clinical practice, trials, statistics, epidemiology, social sciences, and biomedical editing. Deliberations of the workshop were open to other interested scientists. Funding for this activity was provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We conducted a systematic review of the published literature on the conduct and reporting of meta-analyses in observational studies using MEDLINE, Educational Research Information Center (ERIC), PsycLIT, and the Current Index to Statistics. We also examined reference lists of the 32 studies retrieved and contacted experts in the field. Participants were assigned to small-group discussions on the subjects of bias, searching and abstracting, heterogeneity, study categorization, and statistical methods. From the material presented at the workshop, the authors developed a checklist summarizing recommendations for reporting meta-analyses of observational studies. The checklist and supporting evidence were circulated to all conference attendees and additional experts. All suggestions for revisions were addressed. The proposed checklist contains specifications for reporting of meta-analyses of observational studies in epidemiology, including background, search strategy, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion. Use of the checklist should improve the usefulness of meta-analyses for authors, reviewers, editors, readers, and decision makers. An evaluation plan is suggested and research areas are explored.
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        Global and regional burden of disease and risk factors, 2001: systematic analysis of population health data.

        Our aim was to calculate the global burden of disease and risk factors for 2001, to examine regional trends from 1990 to 2001, and to provide a starting point for the analysis of the Disease Control Priorities Project (DCPP). We calculated mortality, incidence, prevalence, and disability adjusted life years (DALYs) for 136 diseases and injuries, for seven income/geographic country groups. To assess trends, we re-estimated all-cause mortality for 1990 with the same methods as for 2001. We estimated mortality and disease burden attributable to 19 risk factors. About 56 million people died in 2001. Of these, 10.6 million were children, 99% of whom lived in low-and-middle-income countries. More than half of child deaths in 2001 were attributable to acute respiratory infections, measles, diarrhoea, malaria, and HIV/AIDS. The ten leading diseases for global disease burden were perinatal conditions, lower respiratory infections, ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, HIV/AIDS, diarrhoeal diseases, unipolar major depression, malaria, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and tuberculosis. There was a 20% reduction in global disease burden per head due to communicable, maternal, perinatal, and nutritional conditions between 1990 and 2001. Almost half the disease burden in low-and-middle-income countries is now from non-communicable diseases (disease burden per head in Sub-Saharan Africa and the low-and-middle-income countries of Europe and Central Asia increased between 1990 and 2001). Undernutrition remains the leading risk factor for health loss. An estimated 45% of global mortality and 36% of global disease burden are attributable to the joint hazardous effects of the 19 risk factors studied. Uncertainty in all-cause mortality estimates ranged from around 1% in high-income countries to 15-20% in Sub-Saharan Africa. Uncertainty was larger for mortality from specific diseases, and for incidence and prevalence of non-fatal outcomes. Despite uncertainties about mortality and burden of disease estimates, our findings suggest that substantial gains in health have been achieved in most populations, countered by the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Sub-Saharan Africa and setbacks in adult mortality in countries of the former Soviet Union. Our results on major disease, injury, and risk factor causes of loss of health, together with information on the cost-effectiveness of interventions, can assist in accelerating progress towards better health and reducing the persistent differentials in health between poor and rich countries.
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          The Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) statement: guidelines for reporting observational studies.

          Much of biomedical research is observational. The reporting of such research is often inadequate, which hampers the assessment of its strengths and weaknesses and of a study's generalizability. The Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) Initiative developed recommendations on what should be included in an accurate and complete report of an observational study. We defined the scope of the recommendations to cover three main study designs: cohort, case-control, and cross-sectional studies. We convened a 2-day workshop in September 2004, with methodologists, researchers, and journal editors to draft a checklist of items. This list was subsequently revised during several meetings of the coordinating group and in e-mail discussions with the larger group of STROBE contributors, taking into account empirical evidence and methodological considerations. The workshop and the subsequent iterative process of consultation and revision resulted in a checklist of 22 items (the STROBE Statement) that relate to the title, abstract, introduction, methods, results, and discussion sections of articles. Eighteen items are common to all three study designs and four are specific for cohort, case-control, or cross-sectional studies. A detailed Explanation and Elaboration document is published separately and is freely available on the web sites of PLoS Medicine, Annals of Internal Medicine, and Epidemiology. We hope that the STROBE Statement will contribute to improving the quality of reporting of observational studies.

            Author and article information

            [1 ]Department of Diabetes and Metabolic Medicine, Center Hospital, National Center for Global Health and Medicine, Tokyo, Japan
            [2 ]Department of Diabetes Research, Diabetes Research Center, Research Institute, National Center for Global Health and Medicine, Tokyo, Japan
            Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
            Author notes

            Conceived and designed the experiments: HN MN. Performed the experiments: HN AG TT. Analyzed the data: HN AG TT. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: HN AG TT. Wrote the paper: HN. Reviewed/edited the manuscript: AG TT MN.

            Role: Editor
            PLoS One
            PLoS ONE
            PLoS ONE
            Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
            20 March 2012
            : 7
            : 3
            Noto et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
            Pages: 9
            Research Article
            Anatomy and Physiology
            Endocrine System
            Clinical Research Design
            Non-Clinical Medicine



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