Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. Fortunately, it’s not a fatal cancer for most men. New research has found that one medication that’s used to lower cholesterol may also lower prostate cancer deaths.
Prostate cancer survivors who took statins were less like to die of that cancer than men who did not take the cholesterol-lowering medicines.
That’s what a recent study discovered.
Janet L. Stanford, PhD, co-director of the Prostate Cancer Research Program at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and colleagues followed 1,001 prostate cancer survivors for about eight years.
The goal of the study was to learn if statin use impacted prostate cancer-specific survival.
A man who had ever taken a statin medication once a week for three months or longer was considered a statin user. Current statin use was defined as having taken the medication within the year prior to the prostate cancer diagnosis.
Researchers found that about 30 percent of the men reported having taken statins to control their cholesterol during the mean follow-up of some eight years.
The most commonly used statin drugs were Lipitor (atorvastatin) (63.3 percent) and Zocor (simvastatin) (31.5 percent). Participants also reported taking Mevacor (lovastatin) and Pravachol (pravastatin).
Researchers found that the risk of dying from prostate cancer was 1 percent among men who took statins compared to 5 percent among men who did not take the medication.
“Very few studies of statin use in relation to death from prostate cancer have been conducted, possibly because such analyses require much longer follow-up for the assessment of this prostate cancer outcome,” Dr. Geybels said in a press release announcing the study results.
The researchers think this apparent link may be due to the role cholesterol plays in tumor survival. Blocking this mechanism and lowering cholesterol levels may reduce the risks of dying from prostate cancer.
E. David Crawford, MD, professor of surgery, urology and radiation oncology, and head of the Section of Urologic Oncology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, told dailyRx News, "For the past decade, there has been mounting evidence that statin drugs have a safeguarding effect against high grade cancers. Additionally meta-analysis of several studies showed an approximate 10 percent reduction in prostate cancer and an impressive 20 percent reduction in advanced disease," Dr. Crawford said.
“While many prostate cancer patients have indolent, slow-growing tumors, others have aggressive tumors that may recur or progress to a life-threatening disease despite initial therapy with radiation or surgery. Therefore, any compound that could stop or slow the progression of prostate cancer would be beneficial,” said Dr. Geybels, who is a member of the Hutchinson Center’s Public Health Sciences Division.
According to Dr. Crawford, "The time has come for a large clinical trial to study the impact of statins on prostate cancer."
Prostate cancer is diagnosed in nearly 240,000 American men every year, and nearly 30,000 men will die from the disease this year.
Findings from this study were published May 1 in the journal The Prostate.
The National Cancer Institute, a grant from the Dutch Cancer Society and additional support from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Prostate Cancer Foundation funded the research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.