People who take statin drugs to lower their cholesterol as much as possible may have a higher risk of cancer, according to a meta-analysis of over 41,000 patient records from 23 statin drug trials.
The analysis raises concerns about how low cholesterol levels should actually go. Researchers found one extra case of cancer per 1,000 patients with the lowest levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, the so-called “bad” cholesterol, compared to patients with higher LDL levels.
Past studies have found an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease among people with extra-low cholesterol. Meanwhile, statin drugs may cause damage to the liver and muscles.
The analysis included records from patients taking statins such as Lipitor and Zocor, but did not include newer statins such as Crestor and Vytorin.
Statins, the world’s top-selling drugs, are thought to have a beneficial effect on inflammation in the body, and lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke. They may also decrease the risk of death from influenza
, pneumonia and smoking.
Journal of the American College of Cardiology July 31, 2007; 50:409-418
Reuters July 24, 2007