Low cholesterol could protect from aggressive prostate cancer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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New research shows that less fat in the diet might protect men from aggressive prostate cancer that can lead to increased mortality. The findings are impressive – in a study of more than 5000 men, low cholesterol was associated with a fifty nine percent lower risk of high grade prostate cancer.

According to Elizabeth Platz, Sc.D., M.P.H., associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health says, "Now, we have more evidence that among the benefits of low cholesterol may be a lower risk for potentially deadly prostate cancers." Men whose total cholesterol levels are less than 200 can gain significant protection from aggressive prostate cancer.

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Past studies have found that cholesterol lowering drugs (statins) can reduce risk of prostate cancer, adding support to the current prospective study. Another study, published in September from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston linked aggressive prostate cancer to the sexually transmitted disease Trichomonas vaginalis. Also, in September, researchers from University of Utah linked prostate cancer to the XMRV (Xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus).

The findings show that only the most aggressive and worrisome grades of prostate cancer are associated with higher cholesterol levels. "Cholesterol may affect cancer cells at a level where it influences key signaling pathways controlling cell survival," says Platz. "Cancer cells use these survival pathways to evade the normal cycle of cell life and death."

The study did not take into account smoking history, obesity, family history, and intake of cholesterol laden foods, a factor that may have biased the study. Nor did the researchers determine whether the men studied were taking cholesterol lowering medications.

Whether or not lower cholesterol levels definitely reduce risk of aggressive prostate cancer will require more studies. The findings show that lower cholesterol levels could protect from aggressive prostate cancer. If further studies support the findings, treating cholesterol could be a target for prostate cancer prevention and treatment, adding to the known benefits of keeping cholesterol levels in check.

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