Prostate Cancer :: Statin use decreases prostate cancer risk

Use of cholesterol-lowering medications called statins is not associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer overall, but it is associated with a decreased risk of advanced disease, a large prospective study finds.

Two recently reported studies found an association between statin use and a reduced risk of prostate cancer. However, other observational studies and clinical trials have not confirmed those findings.

To investigate a possible association between statin use and the risk of prostate cancer and advanced prostate cancer, Elizabeth A. Platz, Sc.D., of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Md., and colleagues analyzed data from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, a cohort of 34,989 U.S. men ages 40 to 75. From 1990 to 2002, the men were asked every other year about several factors, including use of cholesterol-lowering drugs.

In 1990, 4.4% of the men reported taking statins. By 2000, that number increased to 23.8%. Current statin use was not associated with risk of prostate cancer overall or of localized disease. However, current use of statins was associated with a reduced risk of advanced prostate cancer. Compared with men who had never taken statins, men currently taking statins had half the risk of advanced disease and less than half the risk of metastatic or fatal disease. The authors calculated that the incidence of advanced prostate cancer among current statin users was 38 cases per 100,000 men per year, and 89 cases per 100,000 men per year among nonusers. The inverse association was even stronger for metastatic and fatal prostate cancers combined, and the reduced risk of advanced disease was even lower with longer use of statins.

A possible confounding factor of the study is that more statin users than nonusers reported undergoing prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening, a test often used as an early indicator of prostate cancer. Men who underwent multiple PSA tests were more likely to be diagnosed with localized prostate cancer and less likely to be diagnosed with advanced disease. The authors calculated that PSA screening did not account for their results, but they caution that it may have been a source of bias in the analysis.

“? It is premature to recommend the use of statins for the prevention of advanced prostate cancer,” the authors write. “Further work is needed to address the role of PSA screening as a possible explanation for these findings and to identify the biologic mechanisms that may underlie the inverse association, if this association is indeed causal.”

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