Metformin is associated with decreased risk of basal cell carcinoma: A whole-population case-control study from Iceland

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology








basal cell carcinoma; keratinocyte carcinoma; metformin; squamous cell carcinoma; squamous cell carcinoma in situ


© 2021 American Academy of Dermatology, Inc. Background: Metformin has anticarcinogenic properties and is also known to inhibit the sonic hedgehog pathway, but population-based studies analyzing the potential protective effect for basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are needed. Objectives: To delineate the association between metformin use and invasive SCC, SCC in situ (SCCis), and BCC. Methods: A population-based case-control study design was employed using all 6880 patients diagnosed in Iceland between 2003-2017 with first-time BCC, SCCis, or invasive SCC, and 69,620 population controls. Multivariate odds ratios (ORs) were calculated using conditional logistic regression. Results: Metformin was associated with a lower risk of developing BCC (OR, 0.71; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.61-0.83), even at low doses. No increased risk of developing SCC was observed. SCCis risk was mildly elevated in the 501-1500 daily dose unit category (OR, 1.40; 95% CI, 1.00-1.96). Limitations: This study was retrospective in nature with the inability to adjust for ultraviolet exposure, Fitzpatrick skin type, and comorbidities. Conclusion: Metformin is associated with decreased risk of BCC development, even at low doses. Metformin might have potential as a chemoprotective agent for patients at high risk of BCC, although this will need confirmation in future studies.