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Cholesterol Lowering Drugs May Increase Cancer Risk

September 10, 2000 | 26,926 views
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Drugs Stimulate Growth of New Blood Vessels By Mimicking Growth Factor

New research indicates that besides lowering levels of harmful cholesterol, the drugs may also promote the growth of new blood vessels, which may not necessarily be such a great thing. Although this effect may help to prevent heart attacks and other forms of heart disease, it may have the potential to promote cancer as well.

  • Tests in human cell samples and in rabbits, show that the cholesterol-lowering drug simvastatin (Zocor) seems to activate a pathway through which cells communicate and act very similar to a naturally-occurring growth factor, according to Dr. Kenneth Walsh, of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts.

  • Researchers suspect that the drug interacts with a molecule called protein kinase Akt/PKB, which helps regulate blood vessel development properly.

  • Simvastatin produced similar effects on the growth of new blood vessels, a process called angiogenesis, as does vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a substance essential for healthy blood vessels, according to Dr. Walsh. "The same pathway is being activated by statins as VEGF," he said.

But if statins do promote angiogenesis, the effects may not always be helpful, Dr. Michael Simons, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston points out in an editorial that accompanies the study.

For example, statins might increase the growth of blood vessels in cancerous tumors, Simons notes. However, even though statins are some of the most widely used prescription drugs, these and other potential harmful effects have not been reported, which calls into question their vessel-promoting abilities, Dr. Simons adds.

Nature Medicine September, 2000;6:965-966, 1004-1010.

What Are GMOs?

From April 19th through April 25th we launch GMO Awareness Week. We set aside an entire week dedicated to providing you with information on GMOs and labeling initiatives.

GMOs are a product of genetic engineering, meaning their genetic makeup has been altered to induce a variety of “unique” traits to crops, such as making them drought-resistant or giving them “more nutrients.” GMO proponents claim that genetic engineering is “safe and beneficial,” and that it advances the agricultural industry. They also say that GMOs help ensure the global food supply and sustainability. But is there any truth to these claims? I believe not. For years, I've stated the belief that GMOs pose one of the greatest threats to life on the planet. Genetic engineering is NOT the safe and beneficial technology that it is touted to be.

Help Support GMO Labeling

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)—Monsanto’s Evil Twin—is pulling out all the stops to keep you in the dark about what’s in your food. For nearly two decades, Monsanto and corporate agribusiness have exercised near-dictatorial control over American agriculture. For example, Monsanto has made many claims that glyphosate in Roundup is harmless to animals and humans. However, recently the World Health Organization (WHO) had their research team test glyphosate and have labeled it a probable carcinogen.

Public opinion around the biotech industry's contamination of our food supply and destruction of our environment has reached the tipping point. We're fighting back. That's why I was the first to push for GMO labeling. I donated a significant sum to the first ballot initiative in California in 2012, which inspired others to donate to the campaign as well. We technically "lost the vote, but we are winning the war, as these labeling initiatives have raised a considerable amount of public awareness.

The insanity has gone far enough, which is why I encourage you to boycott every single product owned by members of the GMA, including natural and organic brands. More than 80 percent of our support comes from individual consumers like you, who understand that real change comes from the grassroots.

Thankfully, we have organizations like the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) to fight back against these junk food manufacturers, pesticide producers, and corporate giants.

Internet Resources Where You Can Learn More

Together, Let's Help OCA Get The Funding They Deserve

Let’s Help OCA get the funding it deserves. I have found very few organizations who are as effective and efficient as OCA. It’s a public interest organization dedicated to promoting health justice and sustainability. A central focus of the OCA is building a healthy, equitable, and sustainable system of food production and consumption. That's why I'm proud to announce I will be matching donations up to $250,000 this week.

Please make a donation to help OCA fight for GMO labeling.

Donate Today!


Dr. Mercola's Comments:


Well, with half the population anticipated to take these drugs in the future, it is time that we seriously re-evaluated what we are doing with them. Just like our weight, there is an optimum with cholesterol as well. Some people believe that the lower your cholesterol, the healthier you are. Nothing could be further from the truth. If your cholesterol is too low you will have an increased risk of mood disorders, depression, stroke, violence.

This best predictor of heart disease with respect to cholesterol is the HDL/total cholesterol ratio.

Now, to add insult to injury, it appears that these drugs also contribute to increased cancer risks. Some patients (about one in 500) with impaired LDL receptors (familial hypercholesterolemia) do require these drugs and they should be on Coenzyme Q10, as this important nutrient is blocked by many cholesterol-lowering drugs. However, one in 500 people is sure a bit different than the one in 2 which is being predicted to take these drugs.

This is not the first time that the cancer-causing potential of cholesterol-lowering medications have been discussed. A review published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association in 1996 (JAMA 1996 Jan 3;275:55-60) provides some excellent information on this. The authors of the study state (emphasis mine):

All members of the two most popular classes of lipid-lowering drugs (the fibrates and the statins) cause cancer in rodents, in some cases at levels of animal exposure close to those prescribed to humans. ... Longer-term clinical trials and careful postmarketing surveillance during the next several decades are needed to determine whether cholesterol-lowering drugs cause cancer in humans. In the meantime, the results of experiments in animals and humans suggest that lipid-lowering drug treatment, especially with the fibrates and statins, should be avoided except in patients at high short-term risk of coronary heart disease.

Additionally, if statins act on the same pathway as VEGF, as the study's authors state, it further explains the cancer connection. A just-published study shows that VEGF plays an important role in the spread of colorectal cancer and found that survival time was diminished in patients whose cancerous tumors tested positive for VEGF (Br J Cancer 2000 Oct;83:887-891).

Another just-published study shows that VEGF plays a role in diabetic retinopathy (Horm Res 2000;53:53-67). Therefore, if statins act along the same pathway, this is another potential adverse effect of the drugs. Considering the fact that a high percentage of diabetics have heart disease and are likely on these drugs, this is significant.

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