Scientists from Aston Medical School discovered the number of deaths among cancer patients diagnosed with high cholesterol is much reduced following treatment with the cholesterol lowering drugs.
The study, which evaluated health records of close to a million cancer patients admitted to UK hospitals between 2000 and 2013, revealed that those with high cholesterol had a 47% lower risk of dying from prostate cancer within five years, 43% from breast cancer, 30% from bowel cancer and 22% from lung cancer.
The results support previous research indicating that statins may offer protection to cancer patients. Aston researchers explained that they believed the blocking of the cholesterol-causing hormone oestrogen through the use of statins could slow cancer growth dramatically.
Dr Rahul Potluri, the study’s senior author and a Clinical Lecturer at Aston Medical School, said: “Statins have some of the best mortality evidence among 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.
“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.”
Although he could not yet recommend that statins should be given to cancer patients as a matter of course, he stated that this could change if there were positive results from a clinical trial.
Dr Paul Carter, also of Aston Medical School, said the research team were in the process of seeking funding for clinical trials. He said: “We are very excited by the findings. This is a very large reduction in mortality rate and it’s interesting that the effect was so long term.”
Around 7 million people in the UK take statins to lower their cholesterol, making them the most commonly prescribed drugs in the country.
They cost just 3p a day and work by stopping the accumulation on blood vessel walls of cholesterol deposits which trigger heart attacks and strokes. There has been growing evidence they also provide other key health benefits, and could even slash the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.