Middle-aged men taking a class of drugs called statins to reduce cholesterol levels were shown to have reduced the risk of mortality due to prostate cancer by approximately 50%, according to a new study published this month in the journal Cancer
The study is one of the first studies to identify a link between statin use and mortality related to any form of cancer, something that previous meta-analyses had failed to find, according to the study’s authors.
The retrospective, matched case-control study examined men in New Jersey between the ages of 55 and 79 who died of prostate between 1997 and 2000. The study matched 380 of those men to a control group of men who were taking similar medications but did not have prostate cancer or had a non-lethal form of cancer. Approximately 1 in 4 of the men in each of the groups had taken a statin drug.
Among the men with prostate cancer who were taking a statin drug, the unadjusted odds ratio was 0.49 (95% CI, 0.34-0.70). The ratio decreased to 0.37 (P
< .0001) after the researchers adjusted for other risk factors such as for education, waist size, body mass index, comorbidities, and whether they were taking an antihypertensive medication. However, a more notable difference in risk reduction was observed for patients who had taken high-potency statins such as atorvastatin (Lipitor) and rosuvastatin (Crestor). The risk reduction was 73% (P
< .0001) compared to a 31% risk reduction (P
= 0.32) observed in patients patients who had taken low-potency statins such as fluvastatin (Lescol), lovastatin (Mevacor), pravastatin (Pravachol) and simvastatin (Zocor).
The authors suggest that the effectiveness of high-potency statins relative to low-potency statins could suggest changes in the lipid composition in cell membranes due to changes in cholesterol, which could further be linked to changes in intracellular signaling, including the AKT pathway. That pathway has been previously implicated in increasing the response of prostate cancer cells.
While the study’s authors wrote that they are hesitant to suggest that patients take statins in order to reduce the risk of prostate cancer mortality, they also wrote that they believe there is sufficient evidence in this study to suggest a direct correlation between the two.
“In view of the good safety record of this class of drugs and the shared risk factors for cardiovascular disease and aggressive prostate cancer,” the authors wrote, “we believe that it is now time to directly test the value of statins for inhibiting progression of prostate cancer in a randomized clinical trial.”