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Statin Drugs May Cut Cancer Risk

Study: Cancer May Be Rarer in People Taking Statins to Lower Their 'Bad' Cholesterol
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 8, 2008 -- People taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may be less likely to develop cancer.

Researchers report that news in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Theirs is the latest in a series of studies on statins and cancer prevention.

"Several laboratory studies have shown that statins may inhibit cancer cell progression, although results from population studies have been mixed," write the researchers, who included Wildon Farwell, MD, MPH, of the VA Boston Healthcare System.

Farwell's team studied some 62,800 veterans in New England.

The group included more than 37,000 veterans taking statin drugs, which lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol, and more than 25,000 taking drugs for high blood pressure but not taking statins. The veterans were 66 years old, on average; most were men.

The veterans were followed for five years, on average. During that time, 9% of those taking statins were diagnosed with cancer, compared with 13% of those not taking statins, VA records show.

Lung cancer and colorectal cancer were among the cancers that were rarer in statin users. Nonmelanoma skin cancer wasn't included in the results.

Other factors -- including age, history of smoking, and heart disease -- didn't affect the findings. But the data don't include information on the veterans' diet, exercise, and amount of alcohol and tobacco use.

The researchers call for further studies to evaluate statins for cancer prevention.

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