Decreased incidence of nonmelanoma skin cancer in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus using insulin: A pilot study

T. Y. Chuang, D. A. Lewis, Dan F. Spandau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Scopus citations


Background: In order to prevent the propagation of genetic mutations, human keratinocytes irradiated with ultraviolet (UV) B light in vitro undergo premature stress-induced senescence or apoptosis. This response to UVB irradiation is dependent on the functional activation of the insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor (IGF-1R). Based on this in vitro functional data, we hypothesized that the increased serum levels of insulin in patients with type 2 diabetes may activate the IGF-1R in skin and lead to a decreased frequency of skin cancer in these patients. Objectives: To determine whether the use of insulin by patients with type 2 diabetes correlated with a change in the incidence in nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC). Methods: A historical cohort study identifying the incidence of NMSC following the use of two different pharmacological therapies. The patient population was restricted to caucasians who were at least 50 years old when they began the indicated pharmacological therapy. The first group consisted of 1440 patients who used insulin therapy to treat type 2 diabetes and the second group comprised 4135 patients who used cimetidine to treat their gastrointestinal ailments. An additional group of 6131 patients with diabetes who used noninsulin antidiabetics was added to examine the effect of noninsulin therapies. All patients had regular follow-up visits at the Regenstrief Clinics during the study period between 1980 and 1999. The Regenstrief Clinics is an outpatient facility which serves the general population in Metro-Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A. Results: The incidence of NMSC in patients using insulin was significantly lower than in patients using cimetidine (1.25% vs. 2.35%, P < 0.2). The decrease in NMSC in patients with type 2 diabetes correlated specifically with the use of insulin (NMSC incidence insulin-only patients with diabetes: 1-40% vs. those with diabetes using noninsulin therapies: 2-35%, P = 0.11). Conclusions: Patients using exogenous insulin had a lower risk of developing NMSC and the protective effect of insulin use becomes more distinct with increasing age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)552-557
Number of pages6
JournalBritish Journal of Dermatology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2005


  • Ageing
  • Incidence
  • Insulin
  • Insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor
  • Skin cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology

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