Cholesterol-lowering drugs work against prostate cancer

ORLANDO, Florida, May 15 (AFP - Cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins also lower the risk of breast cancer by more than 50 percent, according to research made public at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference here.
Statins, found in popular drugs such as Lipitor or Zocor, can also lower the risk of lung or prostate cancer by 48 percent and 54 percent respectively, according to separate recent studies.
If our results are confirmed, I think statins will have a significant chemopreventive role in women at high risk for breast cancer,'' said Vikas Khurana, an assistant professor of medecine at Louisiana University Health Science Center at Shreveport and the study's senior author, speaking here late Saturday. Khurana however warned that it was far too soon’’ to tell people they should take the drugs strictly to lower the risk of cancer.'' We are not yet ready to recommend statins to those patients who do not have lipid abnormalities and the reason for that is they are not entirely safe,’’ said Khurana. ``They need to be monitored.’’
Statins neutralize an enzyme that regulates the production of chemical substances that play a role at a cellular level in the spread of cancer. Laboratory studies have shown that certain statins can provoque the natural death of these cells.
Researchers compared the use of statins among 556 women who developed breast cancer against 39,865 women that never suffered from the disease. The data was obtained from records between 1998 and 2004 of women cared for by the US Department of Veteran Affairs.

Information pulled from regarding evidence that statins may increase the risk of cancer:

New research indicates that besides lowering levels of harmful cholesterol, the drugs may also promote the growth of new blood vessels, which may not necessarily be such a great thing. Although this effect may help to prevent heart attacks and other forms of heart disease, it may have the potential to promote cancer as well.

Tests in human cell samples and in rabbits, show that the cholesterol-lowering drug simvastatin (Zocor) seems to activate a pathway through which cells communicate and act very similar to a naturally-occurring growth factor, according to Dr. Kenneth Walsh, of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts.

Researchers suspect that the drug interacts with a molecule called protein kinase Akt/PKB, which helps regulate blood vessel development properly.

Simvastatin produced similar effects on the growth of new blood vessels, a process called angiogenesis, as does vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a substance essential for healthy blood vessels, according to Dr. Walsh. “The same pathway is being activated by statins as VEGF,” he said.

But if statins do promote angiogenesis, the effects may not always be helpful, Dr. Michael Simons, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston points out in an editorial that accompanies the study.

For example, statins might increase the growth of blood vessels in cancerous tumors, Simons notes. However, even though statins are some of the most widely used prescription drugs, these and other potential harmful effects have not been reported, which calls into question their vessel-promoting abilities, Dr. Simons adds.

  • Nature Medicine September, 2000;6:965-966, 1004-1010.

“All members of the two most popular classes of lipid-lowering drugs (the fibrates and the statins) cause cancer in rodents, in some cases at levels of animal exposure close to those prescribed to humans. … Longer-term clinical trials and careful postmarketing surveillance during the next several decades are needed to determine whether cholesterol-lowering drugs cause cancer in humans. In the meantime, the results of experiments in animals and humans suggest that lipid-lowering drug treatment, especially with the fibrates and statins, should be avoided except in patients at high short-term risk of coronary heart disease.”

  • JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) 1996 Jan 3;275:55-60

Additionally, if statins act on the same pathway as VEGF, as the study’s authors state, it further explains the cancer connection. A just-published study shows that VEGF plays an important role in the spread of colorectal cancer and found that survival time was diminished in patients whose cancerous tumors tested positive for VEGF (Br J Cancer 2000 Oct;83:887-891).

Another just-published study shows that VEGF plays a role in diabetic retinopathy (Horm Res 2000;53:53-67). Therefore, if statins act along the same pathway, this is another potential adverse effect of the drugs. Considering the fact that a high percentage of diabetics have heart disease and are likely on these drugs, this is significant.

My own comments:

The enzyme that statins inhibit is responsible for manufacturing CoQ10 in the liver. A CoQ10 deficiency may actually lead to increased heart disease risk (CoQ10 is very prevalent in heart tissue) as well as leaving a person with low levels of a very important antioxidant.

I’ve also read articles linking statins to muscle damage, kidney failure, lowered brain function and attention span, and violent behavior.

Getting down to the bottom line, anyone considering taking a statin to lower their cholesterol should look into the whole cholesterol/heart disease link further. Sure, researchers have found a CORRELATION between high cholesterol and heart disease, but I don’t believe there is strong (or any?) evidence that high cholesterol is the CAUSE of heart disease. Further information on this is very easy to find if you go beyond word of mouth and search for yourself.

Lastly, I have to question the safety of any dose of a drug (Crestor - a popular statin) whose highest dose, 80mg, was NOT approved by the FDA. The same FDA that ALLOWS drugs with side effects such as increased suicide risk, blindness, liver disease, depression, and rectal-seepage :eek:.

How bad do the side effects have to be in order to prevent the FDA from being bought by the pharm. companies?

There is no secret to the prevention of heart-disease, cancer, or basically any other non-genetic disease or condition - its just a matter of practicality and actually making the lifestyle changes. I know its easier said than done, and I hope some day I will fully practice what I preach :o .