Statins may almost halve the risk of developing liver cancer
18th October 2012
Cholesterol-busting statins such as Crestor (Rosuvastatin) and Lipitor (Atorvastatin) are currently prescribed to nearly a tenth (7 million) of the population in the United Kingdom, working their magic by raising good/protective cholesterol (HDL) and lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides. The higher your cholesterol level, the higher the chance of you suffering from a stroke or heart disease and thus increasing the overall risk of having a heart attack due to your arteries being clogged up with the fat-like substance known as cholesterol. Health experts are continuously exploring the potential of statins though and already in the calendar year it has been found they could be beneficial for asthma sufferers, have been linked to a reduction in stroke occurrences and evidence suggest that even the healthier ones among us may reap rewards from taking them. Amazingly, yet another study has emerged that shows their mind-boggling potential. This time, it is experts from the University of Milan who have decided to spend time to analyse the health boost that statins can bring-about, and they claim that a daily dose of cholesterol-busters can slash the risk of developing fatal liver cancer. Researchers at the University collated information from a number of past studies that had focused on both statins and liver tumours. This kind of review of data is referred to as a ‘meta-analysis’ and is generally thought to be more accurate than other methods of analysis as it is collecting together results from a large number of studies in order to reach a more definitive conclusion on a particular medications effectiveness; in this case it is statins. Their analysis looked at findings from five previous studies and uncovered that by taking statins on a regular basis, that person’s risk of developing a tumour was dramatically cut by an incredible 42% when compared against those who were not taking any form of statin medication. This may now reinforce the argument of many health experts who have been calling for all people over the age of 50 to be prescribed statins to help stop a wide range of chronic and potentially fatal conditions, even if they are in the ‘low-risk’ category. It is still not certain specifically how the statins work at offering a barrier against the formation of a liver tumour, and more work may need to be done in the future. In their report, published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, the Italian researchers commented: “Liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer mortality and its rates have recently been increasing in central and northern Europe. This analysis suggests a favourable effect of statins on the disease.” After seeing the report, Dr Safia Danovi, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information officer, gave his opinions and said: “This is interesting work but it doesn’t mean that cancer patients should start reaching for cholesterol-lowering drugs. Scientists, including our own, are asking whether statins could be used to treat cancer but we’re still a long way from a clear answer.”