A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology analyzed the medical records of almost 92,000 U.S. adults and concluded that taking cholesterol-controlling statins is not associated with a higher risk of cancer. But whoever said there was such a link to begin with? asks ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross. In the study, nearly 46,000 statin users, including men over age 45 and women 55 or older, were matched with controls who did not use statins. After five years of follow-up, researchers found that 11.1 percent of non-users developed cancer, compared to just under 11.4 percent of statin users, which is not a statistically significant difference in cancer incidence.
The supposed statin-cancer link gained attention when a high-profile 2008 clinical trial found that heart patients on Vytorin had a higher cancer risk than those on placebo. The current research, however, gathered data from patients in the real world, which study author Candace Gunnarsson of S2 Statistical Solutions, Inc. in Cincinnati says is more reassuring.
Plus, adds Dr. Ross, there is no biologically plausible rationale for such a link, and in fact, the risk of some cancers, such as prostate cancer, has actually been reduced among men taking statins.
ACSH's Dr. Josh Bloom takes issue with Reuters' coverage of this story, since the reporter inaccurately described Vytorin as a statin. He d like to correct the error by explaining that Vytorin is a combination of two drugs: ezetimibe (Zetia, not a statin) and simvastatin (Zocor), so a comparison of Vytorin and any single statin is meaningless.