Rethinking the Relationship between Insulin and Cancer

Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2020 Aug;31(8):551-560. doi: 10.1016/j.tem.2020.05.004. Epub 2020 Jun 26.


In addition to being a major metabolic hormone, insulin is also a growth factor with a mitogenic effect on all cells, more marked in malignant cells that often overexpress the insulin receptor. In patients with metabolic diseases characterized by hyperinsulinemia (obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome), the incidence of several types of cancer is increased, as is cancer-related mortality. Because of the worldwide growing prevalence of metabolic diseases and the diffuse use of insulin and its analogs for treating diabetes, the relationship between insulin and cancer has become a clinically relevant issue. Clinical studies have not clarified the degree to which hyperinsulinemia can influence cancer occurrence and prognosis. To better understand this issue, an improved scientific approach is required, with more careful consideration of the mechanisms related to hyperinsulinemia and carcinogenesis.

Keywords: carcinogenesis; diabetes and cancer; hyperinsulinemia; insulin; insulin-dependent cancer; obesity and cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Hyperinsulinism / metabolism
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Obesity / metabolism*


  • Insulin