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Not just as a cholesterol-lowering drug: statins could have benefits against cancer
Statins are used to lower cholesterol levels in patients and thus reduce the risk of heart disease. U.S. experts are now reporting a growing body of evidence that cholesterol-lowering drugs may also have additional benefits against cancer.
According to a message from the American Heart Association, scientists have investigated a possible link between taking statins and cancer. Earlier animal studies, which showed that statins can boost rodent cancer growth, were initially of concern.
Previous fears have been weakened
However, the results of observational and randomized controlled trials to investigate the effects of statins on heart disease have eased fears. This scientific work did not show higher cancer rates.
In fact, they have indicated that people who take statins are less likely to develop prostate cancer and live longer than people who don't take statins after breast, colon, kidney, or lung cancer diagnosis.
Study shows positive results from statin intake
Many researchers continue to study the relationship between statins and cancer. Among them is Dr. Chiara Melloni, an associate professor at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina.
She and her colleagues examined whether the use of statins affects the results in people with colorectal cancer.
They analyzed the medical records of 29,498 people diagnosed with colon cancer from 2001 to 2011. After about five years of follow-up, those who took statins at the time they were diagnosed with cancer were 31 percent less likely to die for any reason and 38 percent less likely to die from colorectal cancer than those who did not.
"Preliminary results confirm that statins can be beneficial for the overall survival of colon cancer patients," said Melloni, who presented the research at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions conference in November.
Research results presented at meetings are considered provisional until they are published in a medical journal. The results have so far been published in the American Heart Association's Circulation magazine.
Better protection against death from colon cancer
Dr. Ronac Mamtani, an oncologist at the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, who was not involved in the research, said these latest findings are similar to other studies in breast, prostate, and colon cancer that show that give better results to those taking statins.
However, what he described as "particularly noticeable" about the new study was that statins appear to offer better protection against death from colon cancer than from heart attack or stroke.
Taking statin reduced the risk of heart attack by nine percent and stroke by 23 percent. The number of deaths from colorectal cancer was even reduced by the medication by 40 percent.
Results so far are not clear
Melloni said her team intends to continue analyzing the data to determine whether certain statins or doses of statins have given better results. Since 1987, eight statins have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The Melloni team will also examine whether the reason for taking a statin - either for the prevention or treatment of heart disease - affects the results.
Research results to date indicate the effects of statins against cancer, but are not clear.
Further research needed
As Mamtani explained, the improved survival observed in these studies could be due to various reasons.
It could also play a role that people who take statins may have a healthier lifestyle than those who don't, which contributes to a lower risk of cancer or helps them live longer after a cancer diagnosis.
Mamtani thinks it will be interesting to see how the authors deal with such assumptions when publishing the full results.
As the message concludes, the best statin-cancer compound test would be a clinical trial in which healthy people are randomly assigned to a statin or placebo and then tested to see if those taking the statin are less likely Probability of developing cancer or living longer after cancer diagnosis than those taking a placebo.
Such a study "can help us find out who really benefits from it," said Melloni. (ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- American Heart Association: Statins may do double duty on heart disease and cancer, (accessed: January 7, 2020), American Heart Association
- Chiara Melloni, Gretchen G Kimmick, Taofik Oyekunle, Leah L Zullig, Michel G Khouri, Lauren Howard, Michael J Kelley, Susan F Dent: Statin Use is Associated With Increased Overall Survival in Patients With Colorectal Cancer: Findings From a Cohort of 29,498 United States Veterans, in: Circulation (published 11.11.2019), Circulation