Very Low LDL May Mean More Cancer Risk
Risk Found in People Taking Statin Drugs; More Study Needed, Researchers Say
Is Lower Always Better? continued...
The analysis failed to show a similar link between statin dosage and muscle damage. It has long been suggested that in high doses statins raise the risk of a rare but potentially life-threatening muscle disorder known as rhabdomyolysis.
No evidence of a link was found by Karas and colleagues, but the researcher says there were too few cases of the disorder to prove or disprove the association.
Karas favors using moderate doses of statins in combination with other cholesterol-lowering drugs instead of high doses of statins to lower the risk to the liver.
"To be clear, the benefits of statins far outweigh the risks,” he says.
Statins, Cancer, and Controversy
It is not clear from the analysis if the increased cancer risk seen in patients with very low LDL had anything to do with statin use.
The study is published in the July 31 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (ACC).
In an interview with WebMD, ACC President James Dove, MD, FACC, expressed concern that it would be misinterpreted by the press and public.
“It would be wrong to conclude that the drugs are too risky because of this unproven cancer risk,” he says. “These results raise important questions, but they do not demonstrate a causal relationship between statins and cancer.”
Editors of the ACC journal expressed a similar apprehension in an editorial accompanying the research analysis.
“Given the growing public angst regarding the safety of prescription medications, all were concerned that the paper contained great potential both for harm and good,” editors Anthony DeMaria, MD, and Ori Ben-Yehuda, MD, write.
The study prompted “spirited discussions” among editorial board members, with some arguing that the paper should not be published, the editors write.
“In the final analysis, the consensus was that these findings could not be ignored, that they did indeed warrant further investigation, and that they should be aired in public,” they conclude.
Lipitor manufacturer Pfizer issued a statement late Monday in response to the study, noting that “the existing pre-clinical and clinical evidence does not support a causal association between the use of statins and the development of cancer.”