Based on tantalizing hints, doctors hoped that cholesterol-lowering drugs also cut cancer risk. A new study now bursts that bubble.
Statin drugs are great at cutting cholesterol. And several studies show that people who take these drugs seem to get fewer cancers. Moreover, there's laboratory evidence that statins keep healthy cells from becoming cancer cells.
The pin in these ballooning hopes is a new report from University of Connecticut researcher C. Michael White, PharmD, and colleagues. White's team analyzed all of the clinical trials of statin drugs from 1966 through July 2005. These trials reported cancer data on nearly 87,000 patients.
"Statins have a neutral effect on cancer and cancer death risk in randomized controlled trials," White and colleagues write. "We found that no type of cancer was affected by statin use and no subtype of statin affected the risk of cancer."
The findings appear in the Jan. 4 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Most of the patients treated in the various studies received Pravachol or Zocor. This allowed the researchers to also look at these drugs independently. People taking these drugs had no fewer cancers or cancer deaths than those who did not take them.
"Statins did not reduce the incidence of cancer or cancer death," the researchers conclude. "No reductions were noted for cancers of the breast, colon, gastrointestinal tract, prostate, respiratory tract, or skin (melanoma) when statins were used."
By Daniel J. DeNoon, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
SOURCES: Dale, K.M. The Journal of the American Medical Association, Jan. 4, 2006; vol 295: pp 74-80.