October 24, 2005

No link between statins and breast cancer: study

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Statin drugs prescribed to lower
cholesterol levels and increasingly seen as having other health
benefits have no effect on women's risk of developing breast
cancer, a study said on Monday.

Some previous studies have suggested statins may protect
against cancers of the breast, colon, pancreas, esophagus and
liver, according to the report published in the October 24
issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

But an analysis of data from 79,000 women participating in
the Nurses' Health Study found no link between use of the
best-selling drugs and breast cancer.

"In the present study, the largest to date, no association
was observed, even with more than four years of (statin) use,"
wrote study author Heather Eliassen of the Brigham and Women's
Hospital in Boston.

Of 3,177 breast cancer cases included in the 12-year study,
1,727 of the women took statins, which are designed to lower
elevated blood cholesterol levels linked with heart disease.

One theory is that statins may help ward off breast cancer
because cholesterol in the blood, and body fat in general,
increase production of estrogen, a hormone associated with a
heightened risk of breast cancer.

Statins also lessen inflammation and can slow the growth of
certain types of cells -- both factors credited with the drug's
beneficial effects on bone growth and the vascular system that
in turn may retard the development of Alzheimer's disease.

Writing in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine,
Eliasson called for further studies, especially on the effect
of long-term statin use.

Popular statins include Pfizer Inc.'s Lipitor,
Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s Pravachol and Merck and Co. Inc.'s