Treating High Cholesterol Could Improve Cancer Outcomes

According to a study conducted in the United Kingdom, statins can reduce the risk of dying from breast, prostate, lung, and bowel cancer.

Statins, according to a study conducted in the United Kingdom, can reduce the risk of dying from breast, prostate, lung, and bowel cancer. The results of the 14-year prospective trial were presented at the Frontiers in CardioVascular Biology meeting in Austria—the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology.

The data was a part of the Algorithm for Comorbidities, Associations, Length of stay and Mortality (ACALM) study, which followed nearly a million patients who were admitted to hospitals in the United Kingdom between January 1, 2000, and March 31, 2013. Of these, 7997 had lung cancer, 5481 had breast cancer, 4629 had prostate cancer, and 4570 had bowel cancer. The study had information on comorbidities such as high cholesterol, and the Office of National Statistics was the source of the morality data.

The trial itself was designed based on a previous discovery of an association between high cholesterol and the development of breast cancer, according to Paul Carter, MD, from the Aston Medical School in Birmingham. “Animal studies show that giving statins for high cholesterol can reduce the risk of breast cancer. We wanted to see if there was any effect of high cholesterol on mortality amongst cancer patients,” he said in an interview.

The study found that high cholesterol reduced the risk of death in patients with lung cancer by 22%, in patients with breast cancer by 43%, in patients with prostate cancer by 47%, and in patients with bowel cancer by 30%. The analysis adjusted for age, gender, ethnicity, and the 10 most common causes of death in the United Kingdom.

“Because we saw the association amongst all four cancers we studied, we think this effect is caused by medications used for high cholesterol such as statins. 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,” Carter said.

According to Rahul Potluri, MD, the senior author on this study and founder of the ACLAM Study Unit, “The results of this study strengthen the argument for a clinical trial evaluating the possible protective effect of statins and other routinely used cardiovascular medications such as aspirin, blood pressure medications, beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors in patients with cancer. Whether it is statins and/or other cardiovascular drugs in combination that have an effect on mortality remains to be seen.”