VA Study: Cholesterol Drugs Could Prevent Lung Cancer

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Knoxville (WVLT) - There's promising news for people who take cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.

Statin drugs are very effective at lowering LDL, or bad, cholesterol levels, but a new Veterans Administration study shows they have an added benefit.

The study strongly suggests they also help prevent cancer, but how?

An analysis of nearly half a million patients in eight southern states finds people who take cholesterol-lowering statin drugs for more than six months, even smokers, cut their lung cancer risk by 55 percent.

Taking the drugs for four or more years cut lung cancer risk by 77 percent.

But this isn't the first study to suggest these drugs help prevent cancer.

Studies have suggested statins may cut a person's risk of many cancers, including breast, colon, prostate, brain, kidney and leukemia.

But why?

East Tennessee Heart Consultants cardiologist Doctor Robert Martin says it may be the protective effect statin use provides, "Statins not only lower cholesterol, but they're a class of drugs that have been shown to reduce plaque formation in certain studies."

In this analysis, the protective effect of statin use was seen across different age and racial groups, regardless of diabetes, smoking or alcohol use.

Though, while statin drugs reduced lung cancer risk, they did not eliminate it.

In fact, 27.4% of people diagnosed with lung cancer were taking statins at the time.

And, statin drugs are not without side effects.

"I would say the limiting sorts of side effects that most of us run across in patients is muscle aches and pains," says Dr. Martin.

The study's authors say the results suggest statins could have a potential role in the primary prevention of lung cancer.

Statins are one of the most widely prescribed drugs used in the u-s to treat high cholesterol.

They include medications such as Lescol, Lipitor, Mevacor, Pravachol and Zocor and work by blocking the body's ability to produce cholesterol.