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Can Statin Use Reduce Breast Cancer Risk?

Posted Jun 22 2010 6:59am
Statins are a class of drugs used to lower cholesterol levels in persons with elevated cholesterol levels.  The statins function by both decreasing cholesterol production in the body and by increasing LDL-cholesterol clearance from the blood stream.  In addition to reducing cholesterol levels, statins have been reported to support heart health by modifying inflammation and improving blood vessel function.

Over the last few years, there has been evidence suggesting that statins might impact breast cancer risk.  Cell culture and animal studies have reported that statins might reduce breast cancer cell growth ; however, population-based studies suggest that statins have little or no effect on reducing breast cancer risk .  Inconsistencies in the research results might be due to different types of breast cancer and/or population differences;  it has been reported that statins might be associated with a less aggressive form of breast cancer and might reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

New breast cancer research presented at the 2010 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting examined the potential impact of statin use on breast cancer recurrence in patients diagnosed with stage II/III breast cancer.  Breast cancer characteristics, risk factors, and survival were compared between statin users and non-users.  Results of this breast cancer research showed that
  • Among statin users, only 9.4% of breast cancer patients developed breast cancer recurrence.
  • Among non-users of statin drugs, 24% of patients experienced breast cancer recurrence.  
  • Statin use was linked to an improvement in disease-free survival.
  • Survival after 5 years was greater for statin users (0.89) compared to non-users (0.75).
These are interesting results that suggest breast cancer survivors who are using statins to improve heart health might be receiving an additional benefit of reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence.   While these results are promising, it is important to remember that this was a study of possible relationships that does not necessarily show cause and effect.  Randomized clinicial trials are needed where subjects are either given statins or given a placebo to determine direct effect of statins on breast cancer endpoints.  Fortunately, a search of the Clinical Trials database shows that several such trials are underway and recruiting volunteeers.  I look forward to seeing the results of these studies.

While it appears that some pharmaceutical drugs might help reduce the risk of breast cancer, there are also things we can do every day to reduce our own personal risk of breast cancer.  Read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer to learn more.
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