Statins Cut Deaths From Prostate Cancer
Study Shows Men Taking Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs Less Likely to Die From Prostate Cancer
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 26, 2009 (Orlando, Fla.) -- Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs have been
shown to cut the odds of dying from prostate cancer by about two-thirds.
The findings come on the heels of other studies showing that statins reduce
the risk of developing advanced, aggressive prostate cancer. Statins have also
been shown to reduce prostate cancer patients' risk of dying of any cause.
"When we look at all the evidence, there is a consistent and meaningful
benefit to taking these drugs in terms of prostate cancer risks," says Eric
A. Klein, MD, chairman of the Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute at the
Cleveland Clinic. Klein was not involved with the new research.
Nevertheless, it's still too soon to recommend that men at high risk for the
disease start taking statins simply for their antitumor properties, Klein tells
But newly diagnosed prostate cancer patients should have their cholesterol
tested as part of a total heart-health evaluation, he says.
"Heart disease is the still the leading cause of death in the U.S., so
we should be assessing our early prostate cancer patients for coronary heart
disease risk factors. It may well turn out they would benefit from a statin
drug anyway," Klein says.
Statins and Prostate Cancer Death
The new study involved 380 men ages 55 to 79 who died from prostate cancer
between 1999 and 2001 and who had living spouses who could verify their medical
histories. They were compared to 380 married men in the same age group who were
A total of 63 men who died from prostate cancer had taken statins, as had
109 of the men who were alive.
After taking into account other risk factors for dying from prostate cancer,
men taking statins were 63% less likely to die from the disease than men not
Stephen Marcella, MD, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University
of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Piscataway, presented the findings
at the 2009 Genitourinary Cancers Symposium.
Further analysis showed that high-potency statins like Lipitor, Zocor, and
Crestor were linked to a lower risk of dying from prostate cancer even more
than weaker statins like Mevacor, Pravachol, and Lescol.
"The high-potency statins were about 2.5 times more effective at
preventing prostate cancer death than the weak statins," Marcella says.
"That makes sense," Klein says. "The more potent the drug, the
bigger the biologic effect."
That doesn't mean high-potency statins are better than weaker statins, he
stresses. "Their primary purpose is for cholesterol lowering and you
typically want to use the least aggressive therapy you can to achieve the
desired effect," Klein says.
While the studies were not designed to examine how statins might protect
against dying from prostate cancer, Klein notes that they are potent
anti-inflammatory drugs. "There's a lot of evidence that inflammation
contributes to the development of prostate cancer." Alternately, statins
may directly kill cancer cells, Klein says.