Question & Answer

Does using Ozempic increase the risk of bowel cancer?

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The Evidence

  • Ozempic is a diabetes medicine. It is used along with diet and exercise to treat adults whose type 2 diabetes is not satisfactorily controlled. More recently, it has been used to help people manage their weight, but, in Ireland, this is an off-label use. This means that the medicine is being used in a way that is different to what it has been officially approved for.
  • We found one study that looked at people aged over 66 in the US.  It found no evidence of an increased risk of bowel cancer compared to other treatments for type 2 diabetes.
  • Another study looked at people taking anti-diabetic medicines in the US and found that people taking GLP-1Ras (the group of drugs that includes Ozempic) had a lower risk of developing bowel cancer compared with those taking another type 2 diabetes drug, metformin. This study also found that when patients were on GLP-1RAs for a longer time, the risk fell further.
  • Another study of people taking anti-diabetic medicine, this time conducted in the UK, found that GLP-1RAs were not associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer
  • Ozempic was not among the GLP1-RAs studied in any of the above research studies.
  • The studies we found are real-world database cohort studies. These are not considered to provide very strong evidence. We would need better-quality studies before we can be certain about whether using Ozempic increases the risk of bowel cancer.

Things to Remember

  • Ask whether the treatments available to you are sufficiently different from those in the research studies that the results may not apply to you.
  • Always ask yourself whether the possible advantages of a treatment outweigh the disadvantages of the treatment.
  • It is important that the evidence is specifically relevant to you and in particular, it is important to check if the treatments are different from those available to you.


  • Lead Researcher: Dr Marie Tierney, Post-doctoral researcher, Evidence Synthesis Ireland and Cochrane Ireland, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Galway.
  • Reviewed by: Dr. Paula Byrne, Senior post-doctoral researcher, iHealthFacts, Evidence Synthesis Ireland and Cochrane Ireland, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Galway.
  • Topic advisor: Prof. Maureen Kelly, Associate Professor, School of Medicine, Discipline of General Practice, University of Galway.
  • Public and Patient advisor: Deirdre Mac Loughlin, Public and Patient Involvement in research (PPI) advisor, PPI Ignite, University of Galway.
  • Journalist Advisor: Dr. Claire O’Connell, PhD in cell biology, Masters in Science Communication. Contributor to The Irish Times, writing about health, science and innovation.

Conflict of Interest Statement: The authors have no financial or other conflicts of interest for this health claim summary.