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Link between Cholesterol levels and Cancer

24 Jul

zLowering your cholesterol levels with statin drugs may slightly increase your risk of cancer, say U.S. researchers.Millions of North Americans take statin drugs to lower their cholesterol because it is widely considered one of the most important ways to prevent heart attacks and strokes.But an examination of the records of more than 41,000 patients in 23 different trials of statins, researchers found one extra case of cancer for every 1,000 patients with the lowest levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL), known more informally as bad cholesterol. The cancers were not of any specific type.Writing in the July 31 edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the authors stress that the benefits of statins still outweigh the risks.“The demonstrated benefits of statins in lowering the risk of heart disease remain clear; however, certain aspects of lowering LDL with statins remain controversial and merit further research,” Dr. Richard Karas of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston said in a statement.The findings don’t directly implicate statins in increasing cancer risk, but they do raise important questions, said Karas, such as whether cancer risk is a possible side effect of statins or just low LDL. Statins such as Lipitor, Pravachol, Crestor, and Zocor lower LDL levels by blocking an enzyme in the liver responsible for making cholesterol.Previous anecdotal reports linked intensive LDL lowering with a higher incidence of health problems, including liver and muscle toxicity and cancer.The researchers concluded that moderate-dose therapy with multiple medications including statins may be better than high-dose therapy with statins alone.Dr. Karas emphasized that patients are advised to consult their doctor before discontinuing use of any medication.In an accompanying commentary published in the journal, Dr. John LaRosa of the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn wrote that the research needs to be seen in perspective.“These current findings provide insufficient evidence that there is any problem with LDL lowering that outweighs its significant benefits on vascular disease,” he wrote.He suggested the higher cancer risk in patients with low LDL may be linked to the fact they live longer and are more likely to get cancer.

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