A large, new study appears to quell concerns that taking statins might raise the risk of cancer.
Among approximately 91,000 adults whose full medical records were available via an electronic database, researchers report there was no significant difference in cancer risk among those who took statins and those who didn't.
After an average of five years of follow-up among nearly 46,000 pairs of people who either used the cholesterol-lowering drugs or did not use them, 11.37% of participants taking a statin developed cancer, compared to 11.11% of those individuals not taking a statin, according to the study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
A common survival curve plotted for any cancer diagnosis up to 10 years also showed no difference between the two groups, the researchers reported.
The study authors noted that due to the way the matching pairs were selected, their conclusions "may not be generalisable to the overall population of adults taking statins" and recommended further analyses. Experts not involved in the study, however, supported the findings.
Statins do still carry risks
"The new findings are fairly conclusive, because the numbers are large and the outcomes are compelling," said Dr Stanley Rockson, a cardiologist at Stanford University School of Medicine. While they do not seem to increase cancer risk, statins do confer some risks such as liver damage and muscle problems, he added.
"In groups in whom the risk of no treatment is suitably high, the benefit will eclipse any risk associated with treatment," he said. "We can put the statin-cancer risk story to bed."
Dr David C Goff, department chair of epidemiology & prevention in the division of public health sciences at Wake Forest University Health Sciences Center in Winston-Salem, agreed. "This is another very strong piece of evidence that there is no concern about cancer risk with statins," he said.
"This provides additional reason to believe that statins are safe and very effective at reducing heart disease and stroke," he said. The same things that help reduce risk of heart disease will also lower risk for many cancers, he said. "Avoid smoking, eat a healthy diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables and whole grains, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight," Goff said.
Dr Nicholas Mitsiades, a professor of medicine, hematology and oncology in the Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said that not only do statins not increase cancer risk, but there is some very preliminary evidence that they may help treat or prevent certain cancers such as prostate cancer.
"Most of the studies are reassuring that you should not be concerned about risk of cancer for people who received statins for the proper indications," he said. "If you have an indication for statins because of high cholesterol and cardiovascular risk, and have a received a prescription from your doctor to take statins, you can take them without fear of increasing your risk of cancer."
For more about high cholesterol and its treatment, visit the National Library of Medicine.
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