Cholesterol Lowering Statins Do Not Affect Cancer Risk

Armen Hareyan's picture

It was previously thought that cholesterol-lowering drugs - statins - increase cancer risk, but this new large study says that statins neither increase, nor decrease cancer risk.

A year ago a team of researchers from Tufts Medical Center in Boston analyzed 13 studies involving participants taking statins. They reported that people taking statins for lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL - bad cholesterol) are at increased cancer risk, although the increase was not significant - only one case out of 1000.


Now the same team conducted a meta-analysis to clarify the link between cholesterol-lowering drugs and cancer risk. They analyzed data from 15 previously conducted trials involving 51,797 participants taking statins and 45,043 participants taking placebos. All participants were followed for about 5 years.

It was previously known that cancer death rate is much higher among those with lower LDL than those with higher levels. Researchers set a goal to find out if statins even increase cancer death in addition to lowering LDL and they concluded that the risk doesn't exist.

"When you look at all of the statin trials together, what they show is there is no overall effect on cancer, either increasing it or preventing it," said study author Dr. Richard Karas.

Researchers are now sure that cholesterol-lowering drugs do not affect on cancer risk, but now they question the link between cancer and LDL levels. One hypothesis is that cancer itself probably lowers cholesterol, but the links still needs to be examined and clarified.



and why the newest headlines from the AP: "FDA investigates possible Vytorin link to cancer 21 hours ago WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal drug safety regulators said Thursday they are investigating whether the cholesterol-lowering drug Vytorin can increase patients' risk of developing cancer..." Also might consider the following : Do statins prevent or promote cancer? Mark R. Goldstein, MD FACP, et al “In their commentary, Drs. Takahashi and Nishibori1 discuss putative antitumour effects of statins. However, prospective data suggest that statins actually increase cancer in certain segments of the population. Additionally, new findings regarding the immunomodulatory effects of statins may explain the mechanism by which that increases occurs2. ... .... In the prosper (Prospective Study of Pravastatin in the Elderly at Risk) trial8, a 3.2-year prospective study of pravastatin for cardiovascular disease prevention in the elderly (mean age at trial entry: 75 years) at high risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer incidence was significantly increased in subjects randomized to pravastatin. In fact, the increase in cancer mortality equaled in magnitude the decrease in cardiovascular disease mortality in the statin-treated patients, leaving all-cause mortality unchanged. hoc analysis of the lipid study9, a 6-year prospective trial of pravastatin in individuals with cardiovascular disease, revealed a significant increase in cancer incidence in the elderly subjects (age: 65-75 years) randomized to pravastatin. In a secondary analysis of the tnt (Treating to New Targets) study10, elderly subjects randomized to high-dose atorvastatin (80 mg daily) versus low-dose atorvastatin (10 mg daily) demonstrated a trend toward increased death, largely from an increase in cancer mortality. Therefore, the increase in incident cancer in the elderly might be dose-related.. ...An alarming increase in breast cancer incidence, some of which were recurrences, was seen in women randomized to pravastatin in the care trial11 Thereafter, cancer was an exclusion criterion in randomized statin trials. In clinical practice, however, it is not infrequent to find an association between recurrence of breast cancer and concurrent statin therapy15. Long-term follow-up (10 years after trial completion) of woscops (West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study), a 5-year prospective trial of pravastatin in hypercholesterolemic men, revealed an increase in prostate cancer in the men who were randomized to pravastatin therapy12. That finding indicates that cancers may become evident a decade or more after treatment with statins... Statin therapy has been associated with tumour progression leading to radical cystectomy in patients treated for bladder cancer with bacille Calmette-Guérin immunotherapy13. That association may be likewise due to a statin-induced increase in Tregs, resulting in impaired host antitumour immunity. ... ...Long-term prospective data are needed on the feasibility of statin therapy in the very elderly, the immuno-suppressed, and those with prevalent cancer. Furthermore, long-term outcome data are needed in young individuals treated with statins for prolonged time periods. Perhaps a constant increase in Tregs over years, even in the young, will weaken host antitumour immune surveillance and increase the risk for various cancers. In conclusion, we feel that there is ample evidence that statins may promote cancer in certain segments of the population…”