Low HDL Does Not Signal Heart Disease
A new study, reported in the Journal of
the American Medical Association (June
4, 2008), suggests that lower levels
of high-density lipoprotein (HDL; the
"good" cholesterol), in and of itself, is
not associated with an increased risk of
Studies have linked low levels of HDL
to an increased risk of ischemic heart
disease. Whether HDL is a main factor
in the development of heart disease,
however, is unclear, due to other factors
connected to low HDL cholesterol
levels. The current study examined a
group of patients with mutations in the
ABCA1 gene causing reductions in HDL
cholesterol levels but no increase in
The researchers concluded that mutations
in ABCA1 are associated with
lifelong lowering of plasma
levels of HDL cholesterol, but not with
corresponding higher levels of plasma
triglycerides or atherogenic [capable of
producing a type of plaque in arteries]
remnant lipoproteins, did not predict an
increased risk of (heart disease)."
Does Lowering Cholesterol
Also Lower PSA Levels?
An effort to keep cholesterol down might also help men lower
their levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA)—a protein that
can warn of prostate cancer. Using data collected on 1214 men
taking statins, the researchers found that PSA levels were lower
after starting the statins, and the reduction in PSA was relative
to the drop in cholesterol.
The results of the study, presented recently at the annual
meeting of the American Urological Association, validate a
previous study that also indicated that lowering cholesterol
reduced PSA. The researchers noted that, if confirmed, the findings
of the new study would provide additional evidence that
cholesterol plays a part in the biology of the prostate.
Murugesan Manoharan, MD, an associate professor of urology
at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer
Center, who was not involved in the study, said it was not
clear, however, whether reducing PSA with statins may actually
conceal developing prostate cancer. He said that the current
findings need further analysis. "Bringing down the PSA levels
artificially does not mean necessarily the chance of developing
prostate cancer," Dr. Manoharan said. "It might just bring the
blood test reading down without reducing the risk of prostate
cancer. In fact, we could miss the prostate cancer, because the
PSA readings are on the lower side."
Statins...The New Cancer Pills?
A major reduction in the rate of cancer was detected in
patients who took statins that are soluble in fats, known as
lipophilic statins. The researchers examined the association
between lipophilic statin use and cancer incidence in >30,000
patients discharged from the hospital following treatment for
a heart attack in the province of Quebec. The investigators
linked the Quebec hospital discharge summary database to
the drug claims database. The data indicated that 1099 individuals
were hospitalized with a diagnosis of cancer during
follow-up for up to 7 years.
Reporting in the American Journal of Medicine (April 2008),
the researchers found that the overall rate of hospitalization
for cancer was the equivalent of 13.9 cases per 1000 individuals
per year among the high-dose statin group, compared
with the rate of 17.2 and 20.6 cases per 1000 "person-years"
among the low-dose statin patients and nonusers, respectively.
In addition, the high-dose statin group had a 25% reduced
risk of being diagnosed with cancer (and the low-dose statins
group had an 11% lower risk), compared with patients who did
not take statins.
"This is the first study to suggest a dose-response effect of
lipophilic statins on cancer occurrence," said the researchers.
Elevated Cholesterol Linked with Eye Disease
Individuals with high cholesterol and high blood pressure may
be harming their eyesight. The 2 conditions appear to increase
an individual's risk for retinal vein occlusion.
The findings were based on analysis of 21 previously published
studies involving 2916 patients with retinal vein occlusion
and 28,846 patients without the condition. The results,
reported in the May 2008 issue of Archives of Ophthalmology,
found that elevated cholesterol levels were >2 times as likely to
be found in patients with retinal vein occlusion, compared with
the control group. The results of the study also indicated that
63.6% of patients with the eye condition also had hypertension,
compared with 36.2% of individuals without retinal vein occlusion.
The authors concluded that physicians treating patients
with hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol should be as
concerned with the health of their patients' eyes as they are
with the health of an individual's cardiovascular system.
F A S T F A C T: Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels of 130 to 150 mg/dL are considered borderline high.