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Health and medicine

Statins don't lower cancer risk, studies find

Associated Press
Published January 4, 2006

CHICAGO - Two new studies deal a double blow to hopes that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs could help prevent cancer as well as heart disease.

In one report, researchers analyzed 26 rigorous, randomized studies involving more than 73,000 patients and concluded that drugs such as top-selling Lipitor and Zocor had no effect on the risk of developing or dying from any form of cancer.

The findings appear in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association. The other study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found that cholesterol-lowering drugs, including statins, were of no benefit for preventing colorectal cancer.

"We were very hopeful that we would verify there was an anticancer effect," said C. Michael White of the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, who led the analysis appearing in JAMA. "We ended up showing no change in cancer or cancer death."

White said the new findings - as well as the rare but potential side effects of statins, which can include liver damage and muscle pain - should discourage doctors from prescribing them solely to prevent cancer.

People should continue taking them to lower cholesterol and prevent heart attacks, he said.

Hope for statins as cancer fighters was sharpened because so many people already take them to lower cholesterol and the drugs are considered safe. Previous research had suggested statins might prevent cancer.

But those were not randomized studies - patients were not randomly picked to receive statins and then studied to see what effects the drugs had. Researchers say randomized studies yield the best evidence.

[Last modified January 4, 2006, 01:08:07]

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