“The discovery of a link between obesity and high cholesterol as risk factors for cancer has been exciting for researchers and the public,” said Paul Carter from Aston University in the UK said.
“Even trendier is the idea that if high cholesterol can cause cancer, then cholesterol lowering interventions such as statins could reduce this risk,” said Carter.
Researchers previously found an association between having high cholesterol and developing breast cancer.
“Animal studies show that giving statins for high cholesterol can reduce the risk of breast cancer. We wanted to see if there was any effect of high cholesterol on mortality amongst cancer patients,” Carter added.
The study investigated the association between high cholesterol and mortality in patients with lung, breast, prostate and bowel cancer.
Patients admitted to UK hospitals with these cancers between January 1, 2000 and March 31, 2013 were recruited.
Out of a total of 929,552 patients in the study, 7,997 had lung cancer, 5,481 had breast cancer, 4,629 had prostate cancer, and 4,570 had bowel cancer, researchers said.
After adjusting for factors which might influence mortality, including age, gender, ethnicity, and the ten most common causes of death in the UK, researchers found that patients with cancer were less likely to die if they had a diagnosis of high cholesterol than if they did not.
Having a diagnosis of high cholesterol was associated with a 22 per cent lower risk of death in patients with lung cancer, 43 per cent lower risk of death in breast cancer, 47 per cent lower risk of death in prostate cancer, and 30 per cent lower risk of death in bowel cancer, researchers said.
“Because we saw the association amongst all four cancers we studied, we think this effect is caused by medications used for high cholesterol such as statins,” said Carter.
“Statins have some of the best mortality evidence amongst all cardiovascular medications and statin use in patients with a diagnosis of high cholesterol is possibly the main reason that this diagnosis appears to be protective against death in patients with lung, breast, prostate and bowel cancer,” said Rahul Potluri from Aston University.
“The results of this study strengthen the argument for a clinical trial evaluating the possible protective effect of statins and other routinely used cardiovascular medications such as aspirin, blood pressure medications, beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors in patients with cancer,” he added.