Statins and cancer: the story continues.

Jacob Schor ND, FABNO

June 27, 2015




The story of statins and cancer is one of complete reversals; they either cause cancer or help cure cancer. We thought the story had reached an end, that statins had little effect either good or bad. Now it seems, the story has changed once again. Two research presentations earlier this month at the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) tell us statin use may both lower cancer mortality by as much as half. Even if this is starting to feel a bit like the boy who called wolf, this kind of impact is worth paying attention to.


A study that examined statin use in women reported a 22% reduction in deaths from various cancer types and a 55% reduction in deaths from bone/connective tissue cancers. A second study that looked at statin and metformin use in men with prostate cancer found a 40% reduction in prostate cancer mortality, with the effect maybe more pronounced in men with obesity/metabolic syndrome.



Statin Use Analysis of WHI Study Data:

Ange Wang and colleagues from Stanford examined data from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI). They determined the association between patients' never having used statins, current statin use, and past statin use, as well as the incidence and number of deaths from cancer among 146,326 women. The median follow-up period was 14.6 years.


Compared to women who had never used statins, current statin use was associated with a 22% reduction in cancer mortality. The association was unaffected by statin potency, lipophilicity/hydrophilicity, type, or duration of use; all of these are factors that in the past were thought important.


Statin use was associated with a significant 40% reduction in deaths from breast cancer, 42% reduction in death from ovarian cancer, 43% reduction from colorectal cancer, 42% reduction from digestive cancers, and a 55% reduction from bone and connective tissue cancers. Lung cancer mortality was the exception and was 17% higher in statin users.



Reduction in Prostate Cancer Death:

Grace Lu-Yao and colleagues from Rutgers Cancer Institute looked at use of statins and metformin because of hints noticed in earlier studies.


They used Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results–Medicare linked data to follow 22,110 patients diagnosed with high-risk prostate cancer. There were 1365 deaths from prostate cancer between 2007 and the end of 2009. The majority of metformin users were also prescribed statins. Patients who took both statins and metformin (n = 1315) were more likely to have obesity/metabolic syndrome.


Patients who took metformin alone (n = 455) experienced no reduction in overall mortality. However, patients who took both statins and metformin had a 34% reduction in overall mortality and a 43% reduction in death specifically from prostate cancer. Similar benefits were seen in 4354 men who took statins without metformin (25% and 40% reductions respectively).


The benefits tended to be more pronounced in those men with obesity/metabolic syndrome but these differences did not reach statistical significance.


It seems that from this data it was the statin use that provided most if not all the benefit to these men.




Earlier newsletters on statins and cancer:


2013: Statins Reduce Breast Cancer Deaths


2014: Statins Increase Breast Cancer Risk


2008: Statins don’t cause cancer







1. American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2015 Annual Meeting: Abstracts 1506 and 5018. Presented May 30, 2015.




Medscape Medical News > Conference News

Statins and Lower Cancer Mortality; Risk Cut by Up to a Half

Liam Davenport

June 10, 2015