Statins could majorly cut number of cancer deaths
Statins could increase cancer patients' survival rates by 55 per cent, research has claimed.
At the moment the group of medicines are used to help lower the level of cholesterol in the blood and they also help guard against heart attacks and strokes. However, studies have suggested they could have a dramatic effect on those with cancer.
One of the studies was led by Ange Wang of the Stanford University School of Medicine, who explained the group are "very excited" by the results.
It was discovered that the death rates of people with breast, prostate, bowel and ovarian cancer were at least 40 per cent lower among people who had been taking statins. Even when taking all variations of the disease into account, the mortality rate was reduced by 20 per cent.
Statins were found to be particularly useful in the fight against bone cancer, which was where the 55 per cent cut was seen.
"The balance of evidence says that statins have an anti-cancer effect," Professor Noel Clarke of The Christie cancer centre in Manchester explained.
At the moment it's not entirely clear why the medication had such a remarkable effect, but cholesterol has been linked to spreading cancer in the past. It's also known that taking statins doesn't reduce your chance of developing cancer, rather it's thought they slow the speed of tumours growing.
Wang's team looked at 146,326 women, while in New Jersey 22,110 men with prostate cancer were looked at. Of the146,326 women, it was found that those who took statins were 22 per cent less likely to die from a cancer than those who weren't on the medication. The men who were taking statins and had prostate cancer were 43 per cent less likely to perish.
The research was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.
The studies were observational, which means they looked back at groups of people rather than being random controlled trials. For example, Wang's research was compiled via a widespread health study devised to help prevent disease, looking at women who enrolled in 40 health centres between 1993 and 1998. It means those who were taking statins had been given them for another reason, so it's unknown if they might have been less likely to die of cancer anyway because the disease had been discovered earlier or for some other reason. For this reason, the researcher admits more studies are needed but she hopes they become a priority.