Kadmon and his colleagues followed 100 commercial airline pilots, a group chosen because federal regulations require them to have regular medical exams. The five-year study showed that "pilots on statins had a 46 percent decrease in PSA levels, while the control group had a slow increase in PSA levels, which are known to go up with age," Kadmon said.
The study was too small and too short to tell whether statins might protect against prostate cancer, Kadmon said. "But we know that when men have higher PSA levels, there is a higher chance that they will be diagnosed with prostate cancer," he said. "It is worth looking into by conducting a larger study."
"There is no question that a large, randomized, controlled trial with a long follow-up would most likely answer the question," Hamilton said. "It would be an expensive, huge undertaking."
Why statins affect PSA levels is unclear, Hamilton said. "We have some idea of how statins interact with prostate biology," he said. "But we don't know the exact mechanism by which statins influence PSA."
The anti-inflammatory action of statins is one of the possible mechanisms, Hamilton said. "We need to learn more about prostate cancer and statins before we launch a huge study," he added.
Statins and other drugs that lower cholesterol are described by the American Heart Association.
SOURCES: Robert Hamilton, M.D., urology resident, University of Toronto; Dov Kadmon, M.D., professor, urology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston; Oct. 28, 2008, Journal of the National Cancer Institute
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