Study finds ‘the link between cholesterol and cancer is clear’

University of Rochester Medical Center scientists have verified a link between cholesterol and cancer with new genetic evidence, raising the possibility that cholesterol medications such as statin drugs could be used for cancer prevention or to augment existing cancer treatment.

“The link between cholesterol and cancer is clear,” senior study author Hartmut Land said, “but it’s premature to say that [cholesterol-lowering drugs] are the answer.” Still, The Times of India reports that the data gathered by the research team at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at URMC “supports several recent population-based studies that suggest individuals who take cholesterol-lowering drugs may have a reduced risk of cancer, and, conversely that individuals with the highest levels of cholesterol seem to have an elevated risk of cancer.” 

Millions of Americans take cholesterol-lowering drugs prescribed by physicians. The drugs work by blocking the action of key enzymes in the liver, which synthesizes cholesterol. The Times story explains that “clinical trials also are evaluating statins as a tool against cancer, and some previous studies suggest that when used in combination with chemotherapy, statins might make chemotherapy more effective by sensitizing certain cancer cells to chemotherapy-induced cell death.

Land, however, urges caution and further study. Doctors do not know the appropriate statin dose for cancer prevention or treatment of cancer-related conditions. Side effects cannot be ignored either, and little research has distinguished between the responses among people who take statins.”

See the study in the online journal Cell Reports by clicking here. 

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