Increased Cholesterol Levels Could Potentially Decrease Colorectal Cancer Risk

Statin use found to make no difference in colorectal cancer risk, but cholesterol levels could.

A recent study found that cholesterol levels influence the risk of colorectal cancer but long-term statin use does not, which was suggested in prior research.

"There appears to be an artificially protective effect of statins," said study lead author Ronac Mamtani, MD, MSCE. "Although the risk of colorectal cancer was lower in statin users versus non-users, when we compared those who continued statin therapy versus those who discontinued the therapy, such that each group shared the same indication for statin therapy, there was no difference in risk."

For a study published in PLOS Medicine, an observational analysis was conducted that evaluated medical records from an electronic database where researchers compared statin use and cholesterol levels in 22,163 patients with colorectal cancer and 86,538 patients without colorectal cancer.

There was a decreased risk of colorectal cancer shown in statin users, but researchers found there was not a significant difference between patients who continued statin treatment and those who discontinued use.

According to the study, for every 1 mmol/L increase in cholesterol level, there was a 10% decreased risk for colorectal cancer.

Researchers found that patients with a higher cholesterol level had a lower risk of colorectal cancer, regardless of statin use. They also found a drop in cholesterol levels 1 year before cancer diagnosis increased the cancer risk by 1.25-fold and 2.36-fold, regardless of statin use.

These findings suggest that cholesterol levels have a larger role in cancer risk and could possibly serve as a blood biomarker to diagnose the disease sooner.

"Together, these data demonstrate a complex association between statins, cholesterol, and colorectal cancer," Dr. Mamtani concluded. "While unexplained decreases in blood total cholesterol should alert physicians to consider colon cancer as one potential explanation, future studies are needed to determine the utility of blood cholesterol as a marker for early detection of colon cancer."