More evidence suggests statins help cut risk for advanced prostate cancer

In a 10-year study of more than 30,000 health professionals, researchers at Johns Hopkins and Harvard found that the longer men take cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins, the far less likely they are to develop advanced prostate cancer.

"We found that statin-takers cut their risk for advanced disease in half," says Elizabeth Platz, Sc.D., M.P.H., assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Kimmel Cancer Center.

Although earlier, smaller studies have linked the use of statins to a lower risk of prostate and other cancers, such as breast and colon, this is the first to tie risk reduction to prostate cancer stage while tracking the medication use before study participants got cancer.

Still, the researchers caution that data are not conclusive enough to warrant prescribing the drug to reduce cancer risk alone because many questions still linger, such as how they might contribute to delaying the cancer process more effectively than non-statins.

"Additional large studies may help confirm these results, but we also have some very important questions lingering as to which biochemical processes may link statins and reduced prostate cancer development," says Platz. "Instead of preventing cancer, statins might work by stalling a tumor already in the prostate, helping to ensure that it doesn't get worse."

Platz noted that "when cholesterol-lowering drugs first came onto the market almost 20 years ago, there was even concern that they might increase the risk of cancer. Now, we are seeing more evidence that the opposite may be the case, but more research needs to be done."

Platz is expected to present results of her study at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting.

In their study, the researchers tracked use of cholesterol-lowering drugs (including statins and non-statins) and prostate cancer diagnosis among a group of 34,438 male health professionals, inc

Contact: Vanessa Wasta
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

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