A study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine showed a reduction in cancer-related mortality in patients using statins at the time of their diagnosis versus patients who had never used statins. The authors analyzed data from the Danish Civil Registration System of patients over 40 diagnosed with cancer between 1995 and 2007. This included 18,721 statin-users and 277,204 patients who had never used statins.
The authors hypothesize that the reduction in cancer-related mortality is due to the fact that statins inhibit the production of cholesterol, which is required for cancer cell proliferation. However, prior studies have demonstrated that statin use does not decrease the incidence of cancer. In addition there was no dose-response relationship demonstrated between statin dose and reduction in mortality, a relationship which is often indicative of a cause and effect relationship.
A reduction in cancer-related mortality is definitely an exciting finding. However, there are still a number of unanswered questions that a clinical trial will be required to answer. Only further research can tell how the story of statin use and cancer-mortality will unfold.