Statins May Lower Risk of Dying from Cancer

Cancer patients taking statins before diagnosis have lower risk of dying

November 7, 2012 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) Old established drugs are finding new uses in the cancer world. Aspirin has been applauded because it fights inflammation. And a diabetes drug – Metformin – is also being tested as a cancer treatment. Now statins are being added to the list.

dailyRx News spoke with one of the authors of the new study. “Our paper suggests that cancer patients who took statins at the time of cancer diagnosis have a lower risk of dying than others,” said Stig E. Bojesen, MD, PhD, DrMedSci.

These findings could lead to the development of new anticancer drugs.

"Talk to doctors about all your medications."

Dr. Bojesen and his colleagues analyzed data on everyone in Denmark who was diagnosed with cancer between 1995 and 2009.

Researchers compared the death rates of patients who used statins – cholesterol-lowering drugs –before the diagnosis with mortality among those who had never used statins.

Statins are typically prescribed for people who have high cholesterol, diabetes or heart disease.

All 295,925 patients were followed from the date of cancer diagnosis until death, emigration or December 31, 2009 – whichever occurred first.

Nearly 19,000 patients were using statins at the time of their cancer diagnosis, and just over 277,000 patients had never taken anything in this class of medications.

The researchers found that death from any cause among patients with cancer who were taking statins was reduced by 15 percent.

“Before recommending cancer patients to take statins, a confirming randomized controlled and blinded trial would be necessary,” said Dr. Bojesen, who is in the Dept. of Clinical Biochemistry at Copenhagen University Hospital in Herlev, Denmark

“It would, however, be safe to advice cancer patients who already take statins for the conventional reasons (diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, previous cardiovascular disease) to continue with statins,” Dr. Bojesen told dailyRx News.

These findings could lead to the development of new anticancer drugs.

“Scientifically, our results could help in the development of new anticancer agents and to investigate the beneficial effects of statins in patients with cancer,” Dr. Bojesen said.

This study was published November 7 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Funding information and financial disclosures were not publicly available.

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Review Date: 
November 7, 2012
Last Updated:
June 25, 2013