Consistent use of statins linked to reduced risk of cancer death

Results of a study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology have suggested that adherence to cholesterol-lowering medicines can reduce cancer-specific mortality. 

Woman opening statin blister pack

Women who take cholesterol-lowering medicines, who are subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer, colorectal cancer or melanoma, are less likely to die from their cancer if they adhere to their cholesterol medicines, research published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology has suggested (20 October 2020)[1]

Researchers used data from the Australian Cancer Database, linked to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme database and the National Death Index, and calculated medicines adherence by proportion of days covered.

The study included 20,046 women with breast cancer, 11,719 women with colorectal cancer and 6,430 women with melanoma, who were diagnosed between 2003 and 2013.

The researchers calculated that for each 10% increase in 1â€year adherence to cholesterol-lowering medicines, cancerâ€specific mortality was reduced.

For women with breast cancer, the fully adjusted hazard ratio was 0.92 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.91–0.93); for colorectal cancer, it was 0.92 (95% CI 0.91–0.93); and for melanoma, it was 0.97 (95% CI 0.94–1.00). The associations were more pronounced for women who adhered to lipophilic (e.g. atorvastatin, simvastatin, fluvastatin) rather than hydrophilic (e.g. rosuvastatin and pravastatin) statins.

“If this inverse adherence-response relationship is confirmed, cholesterol-lowering medications — primarily statins — could be repurposed as adjuvant therapy to improve cancer prognosis,” said co-author Jia-Li Feng, of the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, Australia.


[1] Feng J-L & Qin X. Does adherence to lipid‐lowering medications improve cancer survival? A nationwide study of breast and colorectal cancer, and melanoma. Br J Clin Pharmacol 2020. doi: 10.1111/bcp.14573

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ December 2020, Vol 305, No 7944;305(7944):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20208635

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