Thursday, September 2, 2010

Statins: No Link With Cancer

A major international study gathering 25 different randomized controlled trials has concluded that statins do not cause or prevent cancer.

This meta-analysis of the 5-year running international Cholesterol Treatment Trialists' Collaboration was presented this month at the annual congress of the European Society of Cardiology. It covers data from 25 trials across 166,000 participants, and is the largest study of its kind. In 20 of the 25 trials, statins were compared to a placebo. In the other 5 trials, different doses were compared. Each trial lasted at least 5 years. The conclusion? The use of statins had no effect either way on the incidence of cancers of any kind over the 5-year horizon of the study.  "Randomization to statin therapy for at least five years had no effect on the incidence of cancer or of cancer mortality in any group of individuals," says Dr. Jonathan Emberson, of Oxford University, one of the authors and presenters of the study.

Statins are a broad class of cholesterol-lowering drugs, in general well tolerated, and widely prescribed to prevent recursion of heart attacks, as well as to prevent them. To a degree, they appear as the miracle drug of the decade: they have seen their use greatly broadened in the past 10 years, significantly beyond the treatment and prevention of heart disease, continuously expanding into multiple new applications every year. Some previous studies had raised flags with regards to possible links between the use of statins and incidence of specific cancers. This broad and powerful analysis, based on randomized trials, brings proof of causality to the table, and should go a long way towards dispelling them.

There is some controversy about the enlarging role of statins, and some commentators, such as Kent Holtorf or Mark Hyman, have expressed concerns about possible side effects of statins, including cancer.

Want to read more about it? Try Medpage, Business Week, Irish Health, or PhysOrg.

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