Health Q&A: statins and cancer risk

Dr Mark Porter / 16 January 2019

Dr Porter addresses a reader's concern about whether there is a link between taking statins and developing cancer.



Q:  Is there any link between taking a statin and the risk of developing cancer?

 A: The evidence is generally reassuring. Some studies have found no significant increase in cancers among people taking a statin, but these tend to be relatively short term (up to five years) so can’t rule out an association over the longer term. And I know of at least two studies that suggest they may help to slow spread in people with existing cancer (of the prostate and breast).

However, to confuse the picture further, when you look at the way the drugs influence the immune system and other cellular activity, there are pathways through which statins could both help and hinder cancerous change and growth. In truth we don’t have enough evidence to give a definitive answer yet, but given the millions of people who take these drugs, often for years, any harm or benefit is likely to be small or we would have a clearer idea by now. Ask me again in ten years and I may be able to give you a better answer.




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