A possible association has been suggested before but evidence has been limited. This new study, published on-line (Wednesday 12 April) in Annals of Oncology shows a statistically significant direct relationship between the two conditions.
Lead author Dr Francesca Bravi, an epidemiologist from the Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri in Milan, said: "Although the study relied on participants' self-reported medical conditions, the absence of an association between prostate cancer and about 10 other medical conditions we investigated indicates that the relationship we found between prostate cancer and high cholesterol appears to be a real one."
The research team worked on data from a case-control study carried out in four Italian areas between 1991 and 2002, involving 1,294 men under age 75 with prostate cancer and 1,451 matched controls admitted to the same hospitals with acute non-cancerous conditions.
All cases and controls were interviewed in hospital by trained interviewers using wide-ranging structured questionnaires. These included a problem-oriented section on patients' medical history covering about 10 non-cancerous conditions, including hypercholesterolaemia (high cholesterol) and gallstones.
Dr Bravi said: "We found that, after allowing for any potential confounding factors, men with prostate cancer were around 50% more likely to have had high cholesterol levels than our non-prostate cancer controls. The association was somewhat stronger for men whose high cholesterol levels had been diagnosed before they were 50 and for men over 65, where there was an 80% greater likelihood of high cholesterol levels. We also found that prostate cancer patients were 26% more likely to have suffered from gallstones than our controls, with an apparently higher relationship in thinner men.
Contact: Margaret Willson
European Society for Medical Oncology