(NaturalNews) A study conducted earlier this year at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research in Seattle found that the use of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, especially when used long-term, seems to raise the risk of prostate cancer among obese men.
Statin drugs inhibits the enzyme which controls the conversion of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A to mevalonate; mevalonate is an essential precursor of cholesterol. Thus, statins are used extensively to treat high cholesterol.
In some studies, statin drugs have been shown to lower the incidence and mortality rates of cardiovascular disease. This has contributed to the skyrocketing use of statins over the last decade or so.
With specific regard to prostate cancer, the use of statins has also recently raised interest. Without being too technical, it suffices to say that, by inhibiting certain processes and chemicals, statin drugs directly or indirectly influence cell signaling pathways, cell growth, cell apoptosis, cell proliferation, inflammation, oxidative stress, angiogenesis and metastasis. These factors all influence cancer in some way.
Some observational studies had previously shown that statin use lowers prostate cancer risk, while others have not found any connection. In fact, in two studies, statin use was linked to an increase in overall risk of getting prostate cancer. The Fred Hutchinson study, which was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, thus sought to further examine the relationship between statin use and prostate cancer risk.
Details and Findings of Study
In the study, which was population-based and case-controlled, 1,001 men diagnosed with prostate cancer between 2002 and 2005 were compared with 942 cancer-free controls from King County in Washington. The two groups of men were matched for age.
Overall, there was no connection observed between current or previous use of statin drugs and the risk of prostate cancer. Duration of statin use also did not seem to affect prostate cancer risk.
In an interview with Reuters Health, Dr Janet L. Stanford, who led the study, said, "We also found no evidence that use of a statin was associated with risk of developing more aggressive subtypes of prostate cancer. Overall we found no support for the current hypothesis that statin use may reduce risk of prostate cancer."
However, the findings of the study also indicate a significant increase in prostate cancer risk for obese men who currently use statins. Longer durations of use of the drugs also increased risk. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index of 30 or more.
"Among obese men, current use of a statin was associated with a 50 percent increase in risk of prostate cancer; and use for 5 or more years was associated with an 80 percent increase in risk of the disease; both of these risk estimates were statistically significant," said Dr Stanford.
With obesity on the rise and statin drugs routinely prescribed, there is probably a greater need for the medical community and the public at large to take note and take action. At least this study helps to debunk the theory that statin drugs may actually lower prostate cancer risk.
"Given the epidemic of obesity in the US and the frequent use of statins, the positive association we observed raises substantial concern as to the safety of these widely prescribed agents," added Dr Stanford.
High cholesterol sufferers on statin drugs may want to start exploring natural and safe solutions.