Cancer Research UK cautious over low cholesterol, cancer link

In collaboration with the Press Association

Cancer Research UK has played down reports of a link between low cholesterol levels and an increased risk of cancer.

In a report published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), scientists at Tufts University School of Medicine detailed results of research into the side-effects of statins - drugs which help to prevent heart disease by reducing levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

They noticed that for every 1,000 patients with low LDL levels, there was one additional case of cancer, leading them to suggest that low LDL cholesterol may therefore be associated with an increased cancer risk.

However, the researchers admitted that more research was needed to draw any definitive conclusions.

Dr James Dove, president of the American College of Cardiology, commented: "While these results raise important new questions about statin use, they do not demonstrate a causal relationship between statins and cancer."

Lead author Dr Richard Karas, professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, said: "This analysis doesn't implicate the statin in increasing the risk of cancer.

"However, certain aspects of lowering LDL with statins remain controversial and merit further research."

Research has now begun to investigate the possible link between low LDL cholesterol and increased cancer risk but Dr Karas stressed that patients should continue to take statins as normal.

Dr Alison Ross, Cancer Research UK's cancer information officer, said: "The findings of this study should be treated with caution - it is based on summary data from previous trials and, as the authors point out themselves, it does not prove that low LDL cholesterol levels can increase cancer risk.

"Much more research is needed before any firm conclusions can be made."