Use of statins may reduce the risk of advanced prostate cancer, according to research that followed 34,428 U.S. men for more than a decade.
The study found that men who used these medications had half the risk of advanced prostate cancer and a third of the risk of metastatic or fatal prostate cancer, compared to men who did not use cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Risk of advanced prostate cancer fell with increasing duration of use of these drugs.
The study did not find that use of cholesterol-lowering drugs had any influence on prostate cancer that is confined within the organ.
Lead investigator Elizabeth Platz at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and her colleagues at the National Cancer Institute and Harvard University, believe most of the protective effect they observed comes from statins, rather than other types of cholesterol-lowering drugs, because by 2000 more than 90 percent of the men who reported that they were using cholesterol-lowering drugs said that they were using statins, in particular.
The researchers also say they dont know whether the apparent benefit of statins is due to their cholesterol-lowering effect or their other properties, such as their anti-inflammatory activity or their effects on post-translational modification of proteins.
The research was conducted in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, an ongoing, large prospective cohort study that began at the Harvard School of Public Health in 1986.
All of the 34,438 participants were free of a prostate cancer diagnosis in 1990, but by 2000, 2,074 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Of these, 283 were advanced, and within this subgroup, 206 were metastatic or fatal.
The researchers caution that data are not conclusive enough to warrant prescribing the drug to reduce cancer risk.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in American men, with more than 230,000 U.S. men annually and kills more than 30,000.
Statins, which inhibit an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase, include: Atorvastatin ( Lipitor ), Fluvastatin ( Lescol ), Lovastatin ( Mevacor ), Pravastatin ( Pravachol ), Rosuvastatin ( Crestor ), Simvastatin ( Zocor ).
Source: 96th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research ( AACR ), 2005