About 40 million adults in the U.S. take a cholesterol-lowering drug statin to lower their cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
In a recent study at Duke University, researchers found statins may help prevent both heart disease and cancer.
This finding shows patients might also be getting an added anti-cancer benefit.
The study was presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions conference. One author is Dr. Chiara Melloni, an associate professor.
Eight statins have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration since 1987.
Scientists first began examining a connection between statins and cancer while looking at the drug’s potential long-term side effects.
Early animal studies that showed statins could spur cancer growth in rodents initially raised concerns.
But results in people from observational studies and randomized controlled trials tested the effect of statins on heart disease have quelled fears.
These studies didn’t show higher cancer rates.
In fact, they have suggested people taking statins are less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and are living longer after a breast, colorectal, kidney, or lung cancer diagnosis than people not on statins.
Many researchers continue to study the link between statins and cancer.
In this study, the team tested whether statin use affected outcomes in people with colorectal cancer.
They analyzed the medical records of 29,498 veterans who had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer at a VA Medical Center from 2001 to 2011.
After about five years of follow-up, those taking a statin at the time of their cancer diagnosis were 31% less likely to die from any cause and 38% less likely to die from colorectal cancer than those not taking the medication.
Moreover, statins appeared to better protect against colorectal cancer death than the medication protected against having a heart attack or stroke.
Being on a statin lowered the risk of heart attack by 9% and stroke by 23% compared to the nearly 40% reduction in death from colorectal cancer.
The findings confirm that statins can have a benefit in overall survival for colorectal cancer patients.
The team intends to analyze their data further to see whether specific statins or statin doses resulted in better outcomes.
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