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

d Albanes. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol were associated with a 14 percent decreased risk of cancer even after excluding nine years of early cases.

In an accompanying study that looked specifically at risk for high-grade prostate cancer, Elizabeth Platz, Sc.D., M.P.H., associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and co-director of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Johns Hopkins University, found a link between low cholesterol and decreased risk of high-grade prostate cancer among 5,586 men older than 55 years.

Specifically, if men had total cholesterol of less than 200 mg/dL they had a 59 percent reduced risk of high-grade prostate cancer, defined as a Gleason score eight to 10. No association was seen for prostate cancer overall or for prostate cancer with a lower Gleason score. Platz said that the study supports another benefit of keeping cholesterol low among men in this age group.

"High-grade prostate cancer is less common than prostate cancer overall, but it is a subset of prostate cancer that is more likely to progress," said Platz.

Discussion of the benefits of lower cholesterol inevitably leads to the discussion of the role of statins, which have produced one of the great public health success stories of the past few decades as cholesterol and, subsequently, heart disease rates have both fallen. Statins have been enormous money makers for their industry manufacturers and with two already off patent, and the largest seller, Lipitor scheduled to go off patent next year, researchers did leave open the possibility that industry leaders may seek a new indication for these blockbuster drugs.

"Until there is evidence from randomized trials, men should not take statins in order to prevent high-grade prostate cancer," said Eric Jacobs, Ph.D., strategic director of pharmacoe
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