"One of the issues is that statins are relatively contraindicated in people with liver disease," Schiff said. But "the take-home message for people with hepatitis B or anybody with liver disease is that statins are safe. This re-emphasizes the point that if someone has chronic hepatitis B and there is an indication for statins, they should get them and they may be beneficial far beyond lowering cholesterol: They may also reduce their risk for liver cancer."
Dr. David Bernstein, chief of hepatology at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Manhasset, N.Y., is more cautious. "In almost all other liver conditions, cirrhosis must be present before [liver cancer] develops," he said. During cirrhosis, scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue. "Statins must be used with caution in patients with cirrhosis, which can limit their use in patients with liver disease at risk of developing liver cancer," he said. "Further studies are needed in this patient population to confirm these findings."
For information on hepatitis B, visit the U.S. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse.
SOURCES: Pau-Chung Chen, M.D., professor, environmental medicine and epidemiology, National Taiwan University, Taipei; Eugene R. Schiff, M.D., professor of medicine and director, Center for Liver Diseases, University of Miami School of Medicine; David Bernstein, M.D., chief, hepatology, North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center, Manhasset, N.Y.; Jan. 23, 2012, Journal of Clinical Oncology, online
All rights reserved