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Colorectal Cancer Health Center

Statins May Aid Survival From Colon Cancer

Taking cholesterol-lowering drugs was linked to a 29 percent reduction in risk of cancer death in study
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Kathleen Doheny

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Aug. 4, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Statins, the widely used cholesterol-lowering drugs, may also boost colorectal cancer survival, according to a new U.K. study.

Early research has found that, overall, colon cancer patients who took statins such as Lipitor and Zocor had a 29 percent lower risk of dying from the cancer compared to non-users. Taking the drugs longer than a year reduced the risk even more, said Chris Cardwell, of Queen's University Belfast, who conducted the study.

As good as that news may sound for the 136,000 Americans diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer each year, Cardwell offered a caveat. "These are preliminary research findings which need to be confirmed in other observational studies," he said. And after that, randomized trials -- in which patients don't know if they're getting a drug or an inactive placebo -- are necessary. "Only after randomized controlled trials could any recommendation be made to patients," he said.

One expert voiced a different opinion, however. "I would say definitely ask your doctor [about statins]," said Dr. Cy Stein, chair of medical oncology and experimental therapeutics at City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif., who was not involved in the research.

The researchers said this is the largest project to date studying statin use by colorectal cancer patients.

The study, published online Aug. 4 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, looked at information on more than 7,600 patients with newly diagnosed colorectal cancer. In some cases the cancer had spread to nearby lymph nodes. On average, the researchers had five years' worth of patient history, including prescription records and death records.

Nearly 1,650 patients died of colorectal cancer during the study period, from 1998 to 2009. For patients who used statin drugs longer than a year, the risk of death from colon cancer declined 36 percent. And for those who took statins for less than one year, the risk was reduced 21 percent. Overall, statin use was associated with a 29 percent reduction in the patients' odds of dying from their cancer, the study found.

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