November 19th, 2012

Statins Linked to Lower Cancer Mortality


Cancer patients who used statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs) prior to their cancer diagnosis have a 15 percent lower risk of dying from cancer, according to the results of a study published in then New England Journal of Medicine.[1]

Statins are cholesterol-lowering drugs and are the most commonly prescribed class of prescription drugs in the United States. Some studies have suggested that in addition to their cardiovascular effects, statins may help to reduce the risk of certain cancers, including prostate cancer and colorectal cancer.[2][3] However, other studies have demonstrated little evidence that statins reduce risk.[4][5]

Researchers from Denmark used data from the Danish national database to assess mortality among patients from the entire Danish population who were diagnosed with cancer between 1995 and 2007, with follow-up until 2009. They found that among patients age 40 or older, 18,721 had used statins regularly prior to their cancer diagnosis and 277,204 had never used statins.

During 1,072,503 person-years of follow-up, 162,067 patients died of cancer, 14,489 died of cardiovascular disease, and 19,038 died from other causes. The analysis showed that the risk of cancer death was significantly lower (15 percent) among statin users than those who had never used statins. What’s more—all-cause mortality (the risk of death from any cause) was also lower among statin users. The outcomes were similar regardless of the statin dose.

The reasons for the association are unclear. The researchers noted that statin use could simply be a marker of increased health awareness, which could bias the results. Research will likely be ongoing to continue to evaluate the relationship between statin use and cancer death.


[1] Nielsen SF, Nordestgaard BG, Bojesen SE. Statin Use and Reduced Cancer-Related Mortality. New England Journal of Medicine. 2012; 367: 1792-1802.

[2] Hamilton RJ, Banez LL, Aronson WJ, et al. Statin Medication Use and the Risk of Biochemical Recurrence After Radical Prostatectomy: Results From the Shared Equal Access Regional Cancer Hospital (SEARCH) Database. Cancer [early online publication]. June 28, 2010.

[3] Gutt R, Tonlaar N, Kunnavakkam R, et al. Statin use and risk of prostate cancer recurrence in men treated with radiation therapy. Journal of Clinical Oncology [early online publication]. April 26, 2010.

[4] Bonovas S, Filioussi K, Flordellis CS, Sitaras NM. Statins and risk of colorectal cancer: a meta-analysis of 18 studies involving more than 1.5 million patients. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2007;25:3462-3468.

[5] Coogan PF, Smith J, Rosenberg L. Statin Use and Risk of Colorectal Cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2007;99:32-40.

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