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Cholesterol and Cancer: Answers and Some New Questions
Date:11/4/2009

• Study shows low cholesterol as a symptom of cancer rather than a cause. • Possible benefit of higher HDL and cancer risk. • Lower cholesterol may lower risk of high-grade prostate cancer.

Philadelphia, PA (Vocus) November 4, 2009 -- The American Association for Cancer Research hosted a press briefing on this study on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009, at 11:30 a.m. ET. A recording of the teleconference and PDFs of the studies and accompanying editorial are available at the bottom of this page.

A pair of studies in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention lay to rest the decades-long concern that lower total cholesterol may lead to cancer, and in fact lower cholesterol may reduce the risk of high-grade prostate cancer.

Demetrius Albanes, M.D., a senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute, said early studies suggested that low cholesterol could increase the risk of certain types of cancer.

"Our study affirms that lower total cholesterol may be caused by undiagnosed cancer. In terms of public health message, we found that higher levels of ‘good cholesterol' (HDL) seem to be protective for all cancers, which is in line with recommendations for cardiovascular health," said Albanes.

The researchers observed 29,093 men from the Alpha-Tocopheral, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study cohort for 18 years, making it the largest and longest study of its kind. In that follow-up period, they noted 7,545 cancer cases. Low total cholesterol blood levels were associated with an 18 percent higher risk of cancer overall, similar to the increases seen in previous studies, but this risk disappeared when the researchers excluded cases that occurred in the early years after the original blood draw.

This finding suggests that the low total cholesterol levels did not cause cancer, but rather were the result of underlying cancer, sai
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