Metformin in cancer treatment and prevention

Annu Rev Med. 2015;66:17-29. doi: 10.1146/annurev-med-062613-093128. Epub 2014 Nov 6.


Patients with diabetes mellitus are at increased risk of cancer development. Metformin is a well-established, effective agent for the management of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Epidemiological studies have identified an association between metformin use and a beneficial effect on cancer prevention and treatment, which has led to increasing interest in the potential use of metformin as an anticancer agent. Basic science has provided a better understanding of the mechanism of action of metformin and the potential for metformin to modulate molecular pathways involved in cancer cell signaling and metabolism. This article outlines the link between metformin and cancer, the potential for metformin in oncology, and limitations of currently available evidence.

Keywords: clinical trials; diabetes; epidemiology; oncology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Metformin / therapeutic use*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Metformin