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Statins slash risk of death by cancer: They slow tumour growth by up to 50% reveal major studies
- Experts say there is ‘overwhelming’ evidence that statins can treat cancer
- Study showed they cut death rates for bone cancer patients by 55 per cent
- GPs should make patients aware of pills’ new benefits, researchers say
Experts say there is now ‘overwhelming’ evidence that statins, which were designed to fight heart attacks and strokes, can be effective against cancer
Taking statins can cut your risk of dying from cancer by up to 50 per cent, two major studies have shown.
While the drugs do not seem to prevent cancer in the first place, it is believed they boost survival rates by slowing the rate at which tumours grow.
Experts say the evidence is overwhelming that, as well preventing heart attacks and strokes, statins can be as effective at fighting cancer as conventional treatments such as chemotherapy.
A study involving almost 150,000 women found those taking statins, whether initially healthy or not, were 22 per cent less likely to die from any form of cancer than those not on the drugs.
But this effect varied between the different types of the disease. For breast cancer, statins reduced death rates by 40 per cent, for ovarian by 42 per cent and bowel by 43 per cent.
For bone cancer, which is rarer, death rates were cut by more than half – 55 per cent.
A separate study on 22,110 men with prostate cancer found that those who happened to be taking statins were 43 per cent less likely to die from the illness.
Researchers say GPs should make patients aware of the cancer-fighting benefits of the pills as it may sway their decision to start taking them.
Around seven million adults in Britain take statins – the most commonly prescribed drugs in the UK – to lower cholesterol levels.
They cost just 3p a day and work by stopping the accumulation on blood vessel walls of cholesterol deposits which trigger heart attacks and strokes.
Last summer, the NHS issued new guidance saying the pills should offered to 17million adults – 40 per cent of the population – on the basis they could save up to 2,000 lives a year.
There is growing evidence that statins may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
But many doctors are suspicious about their long-term safety and say drugs firms have downplayed their side effects, which affect one in ten and include nosebleeds, muscle pain, a sore throat and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Nonetheless two studies presented at the American Society for Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago, one from Yale University in Connecticut and the other from Rutgers University in New Jersey, show statins may help prevent cancer.
Researchers believe that, by reducing cholesterol, the pills also lower the levels of certain hormones – androgens – which encourage tumour growth.
As well as being rendered less aggressive, the tumours are less likely to return, they say. So if someone who is taking statins gets cancer, they are more likely to survive.
Professor Noel Clarke of the Christie NHS hospital in Manchester, which specialises in treating cancer, said GPs should discuss statins with patients at high risk of cancer.
‘The balance of evidence says that statins have an anti-cancer effect,’ he said. ‘Therefore if someone is in a situation where there is increased risk of cancer, be it prostate cancer or breast, then a discussion could be had about the risks and benefits of statins. ’
In the Yale study, researchers looked at the records of 146,326 women aged 50 to 79 over a 15-year period.
Those taking statins were on average 22 per cent less likely to die from any form of cancer, regardless of how long they had been on the drugs.
Ange Wang, of the Stanford University School of Medicine said: ‘We’re definitely very excited by these results.’
Referring to whether GPs should prescribe statins for cancer prevention, she added: ‘I think it should be a priority, given how common statins are.’
The Rutgers study showed that men with prostate cancer were 42 per cent less likely to die from the disease if they were taking either statins or metformin –a diabetes drug.
Lead researcher Grace Lu-Yao said tests on rats had shown that taking statins and metformin were as effective as the common chemotherapy drug docetaxel in treating prostate cancer.
Despite the benefits of statins, a number of leading doctors and academics oppose prescribing them widely to healthy adults because of possible long-term side effects.
Recently a professor who had advocated widespread use of statins announced he was carrying out a review into their safety.
Sir Rory Collins of Oxford University is to examine the records of tens of thousands of patients to establish how many may have suffered side effects.
Six of the 12 experts who drew-up NHS guidance on the drugs have received funding from firms that manufacture statins.
SCREEN WOMEN IN THEIR 30s FOR BREAST CANCER GENE, EXPERTS SAY
Women in their 30s should be offered screening to assess their risk of breast cancer, experts say.
They are calling for the NHS to offer simple blood tests to identify genetic faults that increase the likelihood of the disease.
Around one woman in 400 carries mutations in her BRCA1 or 2 genes that increase their risk of breast or ovarian cancer by up to 90 per cent.
Actress Angelina Jolie, 39, chose to have her breasts and ovaries removed because her chances of getting cancer were so high.
Researchers say women should be offered a simple blood test to examine whether they carry the BRCA1 or 2 genes that increase their risk of breast or ovarian cancer by up to 90 per cent (file image)
But many women are unaware they carry these genes. Researchers say the current system, which relies on GPs referring women for tests if they have a family history of cancer, at best identifies less than two in three.
About 80 per cent of women with the genes will go on to develop breast cancer – there are 2,200 such cases in the UK each year.
The illness usually develops in their 30s and 40s and about half die because tumours are very aggressive.
Dr Elizabeth Swisher, professor of medical genetics at Washington University in Seattle, said routine NHS screening for women in their 30s was a ‘no brainer.’
But NICE, the NHS rationing body, is unlikely to see it as cost-effective to offer the tests, which would cost around £200 a time to all women.
However Dr Swisher, who yesterday led a debate at the American Society for Clinical Oncology conference, said: ‘It would definitely save lives. Not only are they aggressive cancers, they are early onset so you have a lot of years of life to save.’
If YOU want to follow my fight against Cancer from when it started and I first presented with symptoms in 1998 see The TAB at the Header of this Blog. called >DIARY of Cancer ….< just click and it will give you a long list of the main events in chronological order, many linked to specific blog postings.
Thoughts, articles and comments will be in chronological order in the main blog and can be tracked in the >ARCHIVE< in the Left Sidebar.
You may find the TABS >MEDICAL LINKS< and also >CANCER LINKS< of help, also many of the links in articles and >HOT LINKS< in the Sidebar.
YOU are welcome to call me, minded that I am NOT medically trained, if you believe I can help in ANY way. .
Posted by: Greg Lance-Watkins