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Statin use associated with reduced risk of pancreatic and esophageal cancers

CHICAGO, IL (May 16, 2005) Cholesterol-lowering statins are associated with a more than 50 percent reduction in the risk of pancreatic and esophageal cancers, according to research presented today at Digestive Disease Week 2005 (DDW). DDW is the largest international gathering of physicians, researchers and academics in the fields of gastroenterology, hepatology, endoscopy and gastrointestinal surgery.

Statins are primarily used to lower LDL or "bad" cholesterol and to prevent heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. Previous studies have shown that statins have an impact on cancerous cells by limiting tumor growth in human and animal models. However, the potential benefits of statin use in protection against cancer have not been explored extensively.

"We've known for some time that statins provide significant benefit to patients at risk for heart related conditions," said Dr. John Johanson, of the University of Illinois. "The research presented today suggests that these compounds may have health benefits that extend well beyond the heart and may affect the entire body."

Statins Reduce the Risk of Pancreatic Cancer in Humans: Half A Million U.S. Veterans' Case Control Study (Abstract 420) and Statins Reduce the Incidence of Esophageal Cancer: A Study of Half a Million U.S. Veterans (Abstract 622)

Two case-controlled studies examined the correlation between statin use and pancreatic and esophageal cancer incidence in the same cohort of U.S. veterans. Researchers reviewed the Veterans' Integrated Service Network (VISN 16) database, which contains information on all veterans cared for under the South Central VA Health Care Network from October 1998 to June 2004. Of the 484,226 patients included in the study, 92 percent were men at a mean age of 61.2 years, 475 had pancreatic cancer and 659 had esophageal cancer. Approximately 34 percent were taking statins.

In one study, investigators found that the use of statins (HMG-
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