Two recent studies suggest that using statins can significantly reduce your risk of dying from cancer.

In women, using statins reduced deaths from several types of cancer by 22 percent. That figure rose to an astounding 55 percent in women with bone or connective tissue cancers. In men, statin use together with metformin use reduced prostate cancer death by 40 percent, especially in obese men with metabolic syndrome.

Researchers believe that statins may inhibit cell growth and metastasis by blocking cholesterol production, which in turn affects molecular pathways and the inflammatory response.

Statin effect on women

Ange Wang, BSE, from the Stanford University School of Medicine and her team analyzed data from the Women’s Health Initiative’s 15-year research program observing women ages 50 to 79 from 1993 to 1998.

Dr. Wang and her colleagues divided the study’s 146,326 women into three groups: those who had never used statins, those who used them in the past, and those who currently used them. They identified 23,067 cases of cancer and 5,837 deaths from cancer. Of these deaths, 3,152 cancer deaths were analyzed—and they found that 2,443 of them were patients who had never used statins.

Women who were currently taking statins had a significant decrease in cancer mortality rate, especially in breast, colorectal, digestive, ovarian, and bone or connective tissue cancers, but not lung cancer.

“Our study fount that lipid-lowering medications, including statins, are associated with lower all-cancer mortality, and that might be related to the lower cholesterol levels induced by these medications,” said Dr. Wang. “Given the widespread use and growing use of statins under the new guidelines and the high burden of cancer, our findings are promising in suggesting a potential intervention that may benefit cancer patients.”

The beneficial effects of statins on cancer death risk didn’t persist after their use discontinued. In addition, some experts are cautious about the study’s findings and wary of recommending statins for lowering the risk of dying from cancer.

Statin effect on men

A different study was conducted to see whether statin use affected cancer in men. The results indicated a decrease in prostate cancer death when men took both a statin and a popular diabetes medication called metformin.

Out of 22,110 men diagnosed with high-risk prostate cancer, meaning stage III or stage IV cancer, 1,365 died between 2007 and the end of 2009. But those who took both a statin and metformin had a significant decrease in rates of prostate cancer death and overall death, and this effect was more pronounced in obese men with metabolic syndrome.

Overall, men who took only metformin had no decrease in their risk of prostate cancer death, but those who took both a statin and metformin had better survival.

As in the women’s study, some experts remain skeptical of the outcomes and of recommending statins to prevent cancer death.

However, others are more enthusiastic. Commenting on the study, Noel Clarke, MBBS, ChM, from the Salford Royal Hospital in the UK said, “The balance of evidence says that statins have an anticancer effect.”

What has been your experience using statins? Would you want to talk to your doctor about taking statins to potentially help prevent cancer mortality?

To learn more about statins:

Niacin: The Forgotten Heart-Health Super Vitamin
Using Supplements to Fight Statin Side Effects
The Importance of HDL Cholesterol and Five Simple Ways to Raise It