NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - High-doses of cholesterol-lowering statins that are "lipophilic" -- meaning they are soluble in fats -- may offer protection against cancer, according to a new study that found a significant reduction in the incidence of cancer in users of these statins.
Examples of lipophilic statins are atorvastatin (Lipitor), simvastatin (Zocor), lovastatin (Mevacor), or fluvastatin (Lescol).
Anti-cancer effects for statins have been proposed, "although original reports had actually suggested the potential opposite, pro-carcinogenic effects of statins," Dr. Louise Pilote, of McGill University, Montreal, Canada, and colleagues note in the American Journal of Medicine. "Despite massive amounts of data, the issue remains inconclusive."
Pilote's team examined the association between lipophilic statin use and cancer occurrence in over 30,000 patients discharged from the hospital after treatment for heart attack in the province of Quebec. The team linked the Quebec hospital discharge summary database to the drugs claims database.
Overall, 1099 people were hospitalized with a diagnosis of cancer during follow-up for up to 7 years.
The overall rate of hospitalization for cancer was the equivalent of 13.9 cases per 1000 persons per year among high-dose statin users. This compares with a rate of 17.2, and 20.6 cases per 1000 "person-years" among low-dose statin users, and non-users, respectively.
High-dose statin users had a 25 percent lower risk of being diagnosed with cancer relative to people who did not use statins. Low-dose statin users had an 11 percent lower risk of being diagnosed with cancer than non-statin users.
"This is the first study to suggest a dose-response effect of lipophilic statins on cancer occurrence," Pilote's team notes. "Future studies should provide additional evidence allowing the assessment of long-term effects of statins on cancer risk."
SOURCE: American Journal of Medicine, April 2008.