Statin use may reduce mortality in prostate cancer

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Statin use may reduce mortality in prostate cancer

It appears that men diagnosed with prostate cancer who use statins for lowering their cholesterol, have improved mortality outcomes. This news is according to a recent observational study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Researchers who studied almost 32,000 Danish men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer for an average of three years, found that those who used statins to lower their cholesterol, were 17 percent less likely to die from prostate cancer and 19 percent less likely to die from all causes than men who did not use statins.  Variables such as age, severity of the cancer (clinical stage and Gleason score) were controlled. 

It should be noted that this recent study found an association but was unable to establish causality.  However, it did confirm findings from many previous studies which have looked at statin use among men with prostate cancer.

Why statins?

Why might statins help lower death rates among men with prostate cancer? Researchers hypothesize that statins may help reduce progression of the cancer, in part, by reducing inflammation, which has been linked to cancer and heart disease.  Heart disease is also associated with prostate cancer patients and they often are prescribed statins such as ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers. These medications have been quite successful in treating cardiovascular disease adding years to a patient’s life which is likely another benefit from them in extending the life of a man with prostate cancer.

Findings from other studies

Other studies have echoed the same conclusion. According to a 14 year study of almost one million individuals, it also found that a high cholesterol diagnosis where statins were used was also associated with lower mortality in patients with breast, lung, and bowel cancers.

These findings from both studies is interesting at a time when it is uncertain if the use of statins for treating cancer is advisable but it could open the door in the future for another avenue of an effective treatment. Whenever large, extensive-length studies such as these clearly point to at least the possibility of improving survival rates for cancer patients, it is well worth the time to investigate further.

The 14-year study was conducted in the United Kingdom between January 1, 2000 and March 31, 2013 using admitted patients to hospitals within the country.  A total of 929,552 patients were recruited from the Algorithm for Comorbidities, Associations, Length of stay and Mortality (ACALM) clinical database. 

There were four cancers that stood out, after adjusting for factors possibly influencing mortality, including age, gender, and ethnicity. They were lung, breast, prostate and bowel cancers.  If the patients with these cancers also had a diagnosis of high cholesterol, they had the following reduced risk of death: 22% lower for patients with lung cancer, 43% lower for patients with breast cancer, 47% lower for patients with prostate cancer, and 30% lower for patients with bowel cancer.

The researchers speculated that because there was an association between the four cancers it is believed that the effect of lowered mortality is not due to having high cholesterol but rather due to the medications to treat high cholesterol such as statin medications.

This is not the first time a study has indicated statins may offer protection against cancer.  Previous research has shown that patients with high cholesterol are given statins to block the hormone estrogen and in doing so, it slows cancer growth dramatically.

The results of this study should reinforce any possible dispute over whether to take this information on to a clinical trial which would lend support in testing not only continued further investigation of statin use for treating cancer but also looking at other cardiovascular medications such as aspirin and blood pressure medications for their possible effects.