Researchers have discovered a link between cholesterol-reducing drugs and a lowered risk of dying from cancer
In a 14-year study of nearly one million patients, UK researchers found those with cancer were less likely to die if they had a diagnosis of high cholesterol than if they did not.
Having a diagnosis of high cholesterol was associated with a 22% lower risk of death in patients with lung cancer, 43% lower risk with breast cancer, 47% lower risk with prostate cancer, and 30% lower risk with bowel cancer.
“The discovery of a link between obesity and high cholesterol as risk factors for cancer has been exciting for researchers and the public,” says lead author Dr Paul Carter.
“Even trendier is the idea that if high cholesterol can cause cancer, then cholesterol-lowering interventions such as statins could reduce this risk.
“Our research suggests that there’s something about having a high cholesterol diagnosis that improves survival and the extent to which it did was quite striking in the four cancers studied.
“Based on previous research we think there’s a very strong possibility that statins are producing this effect,” he says.
“These findings are likely to be seen in other cancers as well, but this is only speculation and would need to be confirmed by studies in different types of cancer,” says Dr Carter.
Senior author Dr Rahul Potluri agrees that statins most likely play a key role in the association.
“Statins have some of the best mortality evidence amongst all cardiovascular medications, and statin use in patients with a diagnosis of high cholesterol is possibly the main reason that this diagnosis appears to be protective against death in patients with lung, breast, prostate and bowel cancer,” says Dr Potluri.
Statins are the most widely prescribed medication in Australia and are taken by millions of Australians, according to the AMA.
“Other cardiovascular medications may also be protective and explain the varying levels of risk reduction in the four cancer types. For example, prostate cancer is associated with heart disease and these patients tend to take ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers,” says Dr Potluri.
The study results were presented over the weekend at a conference held by the European Society of Cardiology.