Feb. 18, 2008 (San Francisco) -- Men with prostate cancer who take cholesterol-lowering statin drugs or anti-inflammatory drugs live longer than those who don't take the drugs, a new study suggests.
"We found an association between both statin and NSAID use and the risk of dying of any cause," says researcher Matthew Katz, MD, of Saints Medical Center in Lowell, Mass.
NSAIDs, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, include aspirin, ibuprofen (sold as Motrin, Advil, and others) and naproxen (Aleve and others). Examples of statins include Zocor, Lipitor, Pravachol, Crestor, Lescol, and Mevacor.
The study was presented at the 2008 Genitourinary Cancers Symposium.
Statins, NSAIDs, Prostate Cancer
Katz and colleagues studied more than 7,000 men who were diagnosed with localized prostate cancer (cancer that hasn't spread beyond the prostate) between 1990 and 2003. About two-thirds underwent surgery to remove the prostate, while the rest opted for radiation therapy to kill off the cancer cells. Both treatments are effective, with a high cure rate in localized disease.
A total of 1,824 men reported they had taken statins, and about 1,830 reported NSAID use. The researchers defined medication use as any use of the drugs after surgery or radiation treatment.
The men were followed for an average of three and 1/2 years.
Results showed that men who reported ever taking statins were 41% to 65% less likely to die during the course of the study than men who didn't. Men who took NSAIDs were 53% to 61% less likely to die than those who didn't.
Taking statins or NSAIDs within 12 months after prostate cancer treatment did not extend lives, Katz tells WebMD.
"The study highlights the potential health benefits of statins and NSAIDs in prostate cancer survivors," he says.
The researchers did not look at drug brands or doses, or duration of use.
Explaining the Role of Statins and NSAIDs
Katz was a member of the team that reported last year that men with prostate cancer who receive high-dose radiation treatment and take statin drugs have a 10% higher chance of being cured of their cancer in the 10 years after diagnosis, compared with those who don't take these medications.
While the studies were not designed to examine how statins might protect cancer patients, other research has suggested that statin drugs keep prostate cancer cells from growing in the test tube.
As for NSAIDs, Katja Fall, MD, PhD, says she believes that anti-inflammatory drugs attack prostate cancer at its biological roots.
Evidence is mounting that prostate cancer may develop in lesions generally associated with chronic inflammation, says Fall, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. Anti-inflammatory medications may be able to modify this process, thereby affecting the cancer, she tells WebMD.