Can Use of Statins Affect the Prognosis of Prostate Cancer?
By: Dr. Gary Bellman on January 15, 2016
Statins are a group of widely prescribed drugs used to lower cholesterol levels in the body. Common statin medications include well-known brands such as Zocar, Lipitor, and Crestor. Statins work by inhibiting an enzyme in our bodies (HMG-CoA reductase) that is used to manufacture cholesterol, and the drugs can also help clear already formed cholesterol from the bloodstream.
High cholesterol is a known cause of cardiovascular disease, and it’s well-established that statins reduce the rate of death and illness caused by cardiovascular disease-- and while statins can help prevent the risk of heart attack or stroke, some studies have also suggested that statins may have an effect on prostate cancer.
Whether the effect would be beneficial or harmful has been the subject of ongoing studies for some time. When statins first became widely available to the public in the 1980s, concerns erupted that these drugs might spur some cancers. Those fears are now widely dispelled, and this past year, a massive meta-analysis of 135 randomized studies that included over a quarter million study participants, found that statin use did not increase the risk of developing cancer.
Statins and Prostate Cancer
However, whether or not statins had a positive impact on cancer risk remains an open question. Research has suggested that statins can slow cancer cell growth in certain cancer types such as breast, colorectal, and skin cancers, and may lower the risk for the latter two. Some research has also suggested that statins might lower the overall risk for prostate cancer, but because of inconsistent findings, it was clear more research was needed.
From such ongoing research, what is emerging is that statins may indeed reduce the risk of death from prostate cancer, but likely have little effect on whether or not a man develops prostate cancer in the first place.
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