Regular use of cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins is not associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer, according to a population-based case-control study.
Laboratory tests of statins have found anticancer effects on colon cancer cells. One case-control study of people found that use of statins for at least 5 years reduced the risk of colorectal cancer by 50 percent. To further understand the possible association between statin use and colorectal cancer risk, Patricia F. Coogan, Sc.D., and colleagues at the Boston University School of Medicine used the Massachusetts Cancer Registry and hospital tumor registries to identify 1809 patients with colorectal cancer. They interviewed each patient, gathering data on medical history and medication use, including statins and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as asprin. The researchers also used town registries to identify 1809 people without colorectal cancer who were similar in age, sex, and town precinct.
The researchers initially found a modest association between statin use and decreased colorectal cancer risk. However, after they took into account how often people took NSAIDs, the association between statin use and colorectal cancer risk disappeared. No association was found among recent, continuing, or discontinued users of statins, nor was there an association at various doses of statins. The researchers did find that use of NSAIDs alone was associated with a 21 percent decreased risk of colorectal cancer. They also found an association between statin use and reduced risk of stage IV colorectal cancer, a finding, the authors say, requires further confirmation.