Patients with advanced breast cancer who have higher insulin levels have a significantly worse prognosis than those with normal insulin levels, a study presented at the Advanced Breast Cancer Third International Consensus Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, has shown.1

For the study, researchers enrolled 125 nondiabetic patients with metastatic HER2-negative breast cancer who were receiving first-line chemotherapy as part of a clinical trial. Researchers evaluated the relationship between insulin levels and progression-free and overall survival.

Results showed that patients with normal insulin levels had a progression-free survival of 11.5 months compared with 8.5 months in those with higher levels of insulin, or more resistance to insulin.

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“After taking into account other factors likely to affect PFS and OS in these patients, such as age and body mass index, we found that higher insulin levels were an independent factor leading to a worse prognosis in patients with advanced breast cancer,” Nicoletta Provinciali, MD, an oncologist from the E.O. Ospedali Galliera in Genoa, Italy, said.

The researchers noted that performing simple lifestyle interventions like more exercise and a better diet, as well as taking metformin, may help improve insulin resistance and improve prognosis in these patients.

“We would now like to see a trial evaluating the effect of physical activity and diet on individual patient metabolism. And we believe that all patients with advanced breast cancer should be counseled on the potential effect of these kind of lifestyle changes,” Dr. Provinciali concluded.


1. Higher insulin is an independent prognostic factor in advanced breast cancer [news release]. EurekAlert! website. November 5, 2015. Accessed November 5, 2015.