Study: Lipid-Lowering Medication Improves Cancer Mortality


Lipid-lowering medication may be an effective adjuvant cancer therapy.

Lipid-lowering medications (LLMs) are associated with a decrease in cancer-specific mortality, according to a recent study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.1

The original purpose of LLMs is to lower overall cholesterol levels, according to the study. However, preclinical evidence supports LLMs, primarily statins, have anticancer properties. More research was needed before repurposing the drug as adjuvant cancer therapy.1

Investigators used the Australian Cancer Database, which was linked to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme database and the National Death Index, to examine how LLMs affect cancer mortality. The study authors looked at 3 separate cohorts of women from 2003 to 2013. The cohorts included more than 38,000 patients, of whom 20,046 were patients with breast cancer, 11,719 were patients with colorectal cancer, and 6430 were patients with melanoma.

The 1-year adherence rate was similar to 1-year pre-diagnosis in the 3 cohorts, with an average rate of adherence at 82%, according to the study. Investigators found that each 10% increase in 1-year adherence to LLMs was inversely associated with cancer-specific mortality.

For breast cancer, a 10% increase in 1-year adherence was associated with an 8% reduction in breast cancer mortality and a similar 8% reduction in colorectal cancer. For melanoma, reductions were seen after adjusting for age. Reductions were more pronounced in women who adhered to lipophilic than hydrophilic statins in all 3 cancers but was not statistically significant for melanoma.

"If this inverse adherence-response relationship is confirmed, cholesterol-lowering medications—primarily statins—could be repurposed as adjuvant therapy to improve cancer prognosis," co-author Jia-Li Feng, BMed, MMed, PhD, of QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, said in the press release.2

The study had several limitations, such as little information about patients’ lipid levels, comorbidities, and use of other cardiovascular-related medicines. Additionally, investigators could not adjust for tumor grade, according to the study. 1


  • Qin, Xiwen, Feng, Jia-Li. Does adherence to lipid‐lowering medications improve cancer survival? A nationwide study of breast and colorectal cancer, and melanoma [Journal article] October 20, 2020. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. Accessed October 22, 2020.
  • Most psoriasis patients taking immunosuppressants survive COVID-19 [News Release] October 21, 2020; Australia. Accessed October 22, 2020.

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