Statins not linked to breast cancer claim researchers

In collaboration with the Press Association

New research has failed to find any increased risk of breast cancer among women taking statins, a class of cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Previous research into statins and cancer has proved contradictory, but some studies have suggested that the treatment may increase the risks of breast cancer.

The latest research, carried out by the University of Pittsburgh, concluded that not only did statins not increase the risk of breast cancer, but that some forms of the drug, so-called ?hydrophobic? statins, may reduce the risk of the disease.

"At minimum, our findings suggest that women can now be reassured that they are not increasing their risk of developing breast cancer by taking these drugs," said senior author professor Jane Cauley of the University of Pittsburgh.

"Although we found that women who took hydrophobic statins actually lowered their breast cancer risk, we believe this finding needs to be confirmed in additional studies."

The study traced the incidence of breast cancer over a seven-year period among more than 156,000 post-menopausal women. Almost 12,000 of these were statins users.

The research was able to find no statistically significant negative link between these women and breast cancer, but did observe a slightly lower breast cancer incidence.

When users of hydrophobic statins were considered alone, the incidence was shown to be 18 per cent lower than non-users.

"A number of different mechanisms have been identified by which this class of statins might inhibit the growth of cancer," said professor Cauley.

"For example, animal studies have shown that hydrophobic statins induce programmed cell death, or apoptosis. Hence, there certainly is some biological plausibility for this class of statins preventing cancer."

Professor Cauley emphasised that the nature of the relation remained unclear, and that more extensive and targeted research would be needed before it could be understood.