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Cholesterol Levels Tied to Breast Cancer Risk?

But research is still preliminary, experts say

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, July 4, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- High cholesterol levels may increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, a large new British study reports.

The findings suggest that keeping tight control over cholesterol through medication could help prevent breast cancer, said lead author Rahul Potluri, a researcher at the Aston University School of Medical Sciences in Birmingham, England.

"This is a preliminary study and further research is required before anything can be confirmed," Potluri said. "However, 10 to 15 years down the line, if further prospective studies confirm these findings, there is the possibility for a clinical trial of the use of statins in breast cancer." Statins are prescription drugs used to treat high cholesterol.

Researchers reviewed the medical records of over 660,000 female patients in Birmingham and Manchester between 2000 and 2013, using a statistical model to study the association between high cholesterol and breast cancer.

The investigators determined that high cholesterol increases a woman's risk of developing breast cancer by 64 percent.

The researchers were scheduled to present their findings Friday at a meeting in Barcelona, Spain, organized by the European Society of Cardiology in collaboration with 13 other European medical societies.

They undertook the study after a mouse study last year linked aggressive breast cancer growth to a chemical created by the body's processing of cholesterol, Potluri said.

"We have a general principle that obesity is linked to breast cancer and a study in mice suggested that this may be because of cholesterol," Potluri said. "We decided to investigate whether there was any association between hyperlipidemia, which is high cholesterol essentially, and breast cancer."

Despite the findings, both Potluri and other medical experts said the association found by the researchers doesn't constitute a direct link between high cholesterol and breast cancer.

Eric Jacobs, strategic director of pharmacoepidemiology for the American Cancer Society, said the results of the new study are "provocative" but "cannot be fully evaluated until details about the study are presented in a peer-reviewed scientific journal."

Results of previous studies of cholesterol levels and breast cancer have been mixed, "with most showing no clear link, and at least one large recent European study finding lower risk of breast cancer in women with high cholesterol levels," Jacobs said.

The association between high cholesterol and breast cancer becomes weaker when other potential risk factors are taken into consideration, said Dr. Harold Burstein, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and a spokesman for the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

"The link between cholesterol and breast cancer risk is mild, at most, and has not been a consistent finding in different studies, especially when other factors such as weight/obesity and diet are factored into the epidemiology," Burstein said.

Potluri said the study did not control for obesity.

All three said more research is needed.

"Future research may clarify how lipid [blood fat] levels, as well as other factors linked to obesity, like hormone and insulin levels, influence risk of breast cancer," Jacobs said.

In the meantime, he added, "women should know that there is strong consistent evidence that being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight can help lower their risk of developing breast cancer after menopause."

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Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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