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Statins May Stave Off Liver Cancer in People With Hepatitis B
Date:1/27/2012

By Denise Mann
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Popular cholesterol-lowering statins may also lower risk for liver cancer among people with hepatitis B, a new study shows. Hepatitis B, an inflammation of the liver due to the hepatitis B virus, is one of the main causes of liver cancer.

This is not the first time that statins have shown promise in reducing risk for cancer. Other studies have hinted that these drugs may play a role in preventing certain types of cancer, including breast cancer.

In the new study of more than 33,000 individuals with hepatitis B followed from 1997 to 2008, those who took a statin were less likely to develop liver cancer, when compared to participants who were not prescribed statins. What's more, the longer a person took statins, the greater the liver-cancer risk reduction. Study participants were prescribed the statins to treat high cholesterol levels. Overall, 1,021 people developed liver cancer during the study period.

More research is needed to see how statins may lower liver cancer risk among people with hepatitis B, the researchers said.

"Statins have potential protective effects against cancers [and] carriers of hepatitis B virus infection have a substantial risk of [liver] carcinoma," said Dr. Pau-Chung Chen, a professor of environmental medicine and epidemiology at National Taiwan University, in Taipei. "Statin use is not only a benefit to preventing cardiovascular diseases, but also an additional, convenient and acceptable strategy for preventing hepatocellular carcinoma," or liver cancer, Chen said.

However, statins can cause a potentially dangerous rise in liver enzymes and liver damage. Regular liver function tests are required for all people who take statins.

The study appeared online Jan. 23 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

"This is exciting and unequivocally solid research," said Dr. Eugene Schiff, a prof
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