A large new population study rasies the possibility that statin use may lead to a decline in cancer mortality. Researchers in Denmark utilized health data from the entire population of the country and analyzed the information from nearly 300,000 patients who were diagnosed with cancer between 1995 and 2007. The authors note that the relationship is biologically plausible, since cholesterol synthesis is required for cell proliferation and other critical cellular functions.
In their paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers compared 18,721 cancer patients who were statin users prior to their diagnosis with 277,204 had never used statins: Here is the adjusted hazard ratios for statin users:
- All cause mortality: 0.85 (0.83-0.87)
- Death from cancer: 0.85 (0.82-0.87)
There was no dose response relationship observed in the study. A similar and consistent pattern was observed for different types of cancer, though these differences not always achieve statistical significance.
In an accompanying editorial, Neil Caporaso notes that despite the considerable strengths of the study, which used data from the entire country of Denmark, the researchers were nevertheless unable to account for residual confouding differences between statin users and nonusers. The “consistent and substantial declines in mortality across diverse diverse cancers” need to be interpreted with caution, he wrote. Caporaso suggests a variety of different research directions for further study of the important question of the relationship between statins and cancer.