Statins could be linked to reduced risk of ovarian cancer, researchers find

Research has shown that women who naturally inhibit the 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl co-enzyme A reductase — the target of statins — have a lower risk of ovarian cancer.

Statin tablets next to a pill box

Women who take statins long-term, including those carrying the BRCA1/2 gene mutation, could be less likely to develop ovarian cancer than those who do not, research published in JAMA (18 February 2020) has suggested[1]

The researchers, funded by Cancer Research UK, looked at genetic data from 63,347 women aged 20–100 years, of whom 22,406 had ovarian cancer. They also looked at 31,448 women carrying the BRCA1/2 mutation, 3,887 of whom had ovarian cancer.

Using large-scale genetic data, the researchers evaluated whether inhibition of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl co-enzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase — the target of statins — lowered ovarian cancer risk.

They estimated that HMG-CoA reductase inhibition could be associated with a 40% reduction in ovarian cancer risk in the general population (odds ratio 0.60; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.43–0.83), and a 31% reduced risk in women with the BRCA1/2 mutation (hazard ratio 0.69; 95% CI 0.51–0.93). Although, the exact mechanism was unclear.

“Our findings open up the possibility of repurposing a cheap drug to help prevent ovarian cancer — especially in women who are at a higher risk,” said Richard Martin, professor of clinical epidemiology at the University of Bristol.

“It’s incredibly interesting that women whose bodies naturally inhibit the enzyme targeted by statins have a lower risk of ovarian cancer, but we don’t recommend anyone rushes to take statins specifically to reduce ovarian cancer risk because of this study.”


[1] Yarmolinsky J, Bull C, Vincent E et al. JAMA 2020;323(7):646–655. doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.0150

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, March 2020, Vol 304, No 7935;304(7935):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20207756

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