Statins have neutral effect on risk of cancer

The cholesterol-lowering medications called statins do not appear to reduce the incidence of cancer or cancer deaths, according to a meta-analysis of previous studies in the January 4 issue of JAMA.

Other studies have suggested that statins reduce the risk of developing cancer, the authors provide as background information in the review article. "Statins have been studied in numerous large-scale, randomized, active- or placebo-controlled trials for primary and secondary prevention of coronary artery disease. In these trials, statins reduced the risk of a first myocardial infarction (heart attack) and overall mortality. With long-term follow-up and collection of cancer data in a majority of studies, insight into the risk of cancer among statin-nave persons and statin users can be derived," the authors write.

C. Michael White, Pharm.D., from the University of Connecticut and Hartford Hospital, Hartford, Conn., and colleagues, conducted a search of the medical literature from 1966 through July 2005 to identify randomized controlled trials of statins. They found 27 articles (n = 86,936 participants) that met their criteria for inclusion, reporting 26 randomized controlled trials of statins with data on either cancer incidence (n = 20 studies) or cancer death (n = 22 studies).

"In our current meta-analysis, statins did not reduce the incidence of cancer or cancer death," the authors report. "No reductions were noted for cancers of the breast, colon, gastrointestinal tract, prostate, respiratory tract, or skin (melanoma) when statins were used." The authors continue, " the patients in our meta-analysis were primarily treated with simvastatin and pravastatin. As such, we evaluated pravastatin alone and simvastatin alone on cancer incidence and death and found no impact."

"Statins have a neutral effect on cancer and cancer death risks in randomized controlled trials," the authors write in conclusion. "We could find no type of cancer that statins benefited or subtype of statin that reduced the risk of cancer.

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(JAMA. 2006;295: 74 -80. Available pre-embargo to the media at www.jamamedia.org.)


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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