, Volume 66, Issue 2, pp 157–165 | Cite as

GLP-1 receptor agonists and risk of cancer in type 2 diabetes: an updated meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

  • Chuqing Cao
  • Shuting Yang
  • Zhiguang ZhouEmail author



Some preliminary studies reported a link between GLP-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1RAs) and thyroid/pancreatic neoplasms, while its human relevance remained undetermined. The present meta-analysis was performed to collect information on cancers associated with GLP-1RAs in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM).


Medline, Embase, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), Web of Science and were extensively searched to identify randomized controlled trials that reported cancer events in T2DM patients treated with GLP-1RAs for at least 52 weeks, up to March 18, 2019. Odds ratio (OR) with 95% Confidence Interval (CI) was calculated for overall cancer (primary outcome), thyroid and pancreatic cancer.


A total of 37 eligible trials were identified. The OR for overall cancer associated with GLP-1RAs was 1.03 (95% CI 0.95–1.12; p = 0.41) compared with comparators. Subgroup analyses showed that treatment with albiglutide was associated with a lower risk of overall cancer (OR 0.76 [95% CI 0.60–0.97]; p = 0.03), and no elevated risk of overall cancer was identified for other GLP-1RAs. No significant differences in the risks of thyroid nor pancreatic cancer were disclosed between GLP-1RAs and comparators.


This meta-analysis did not suggest any increased risk of cancers associated with GLP-1RAs use in T2DM. The reduction in the risk of overall cancer associated with albiglutide needs to be examined further.


GLP-1 receptor agonists Cancer Meta-analysis Type 2 diabetes mellitus Randomized controlled trials 


Author contributions

All authors collectively planned the study. C.C. designed the study and wrote the paper. C.C. and S.Y. collected, extracted, assessed, and analyzed the data. The first draft of the paper was written by C.C., and Z.Z. revised the paper. All authors reviewed the paper for intellectual content and approved the final version.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

12020_2019_2055_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (4 mb)
Supplementary Information


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Metabolism & Endocrinology, The Second Xiangya HospitalCentral South UniversityChangshaChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Diabetes Immunology, Central South University, Ministry of EducationNational Clinical Research Center for Metabolic DiseasesChangshaChina

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