Taking statins can halve the risk of breast cancer and drastically reduce mortality rates, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that patients taking the drugs – which are taken to lower cholesterol – were 40 per cent less likely to die.
And they were found to lower the chance of developing the cancer by almost half.
The study of 1.2million women across the UK was looking at why those with high cholesterol were less likely to develop breast cancer.
They were admitted with high cholesterol from 1 January 2000 until 31 March 2013.
Taking statins can halve the risk of breast cancer and drastically reduce mortality rates
THE STATINS DIVIDE: EXPERT URGES ALL ELDERLY TAKE THEM – BUT OTHERS SAY THEY ARE ‘NEEDLESSLY DOLED OUT’
Statins should be prescribed to all men over 60 and women over 75, a major study claimed earlier this month.
It says almost 12million adults in England ought to take the pills, which lower cholesterol, to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
However, 6.3million are not using the drugs – even though they are considered to be at high risk.
Yet, on the same day, the Royal College of GPs warned they are being ‘needlessly doled out’ and called for an end to the ‘blanket prescription’ of statins, arguing otherwise healthy people are being unnecessarily ‘medicalised’.
It adds that if 100 people with a 10 per cent heart disease risk within 10 years took the cholesterol-lowering drugs, as recommended by NICE, only four would be protected against the condition.
Link between high cholesterol and breast cancer
Researchers said it was ‘likely’ to be because they were taking statins – a form of medicine that is used to decrease the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood.
Senior author of the ACALM Study Unit at Aston Medical School, Aston University, Birmingham, Dr Rahul Potluri, said: ‘This is the most conclusive and direct evidence as yet to confirm the link between high cholesterol and breast cancer, a topic that has been fascinating researchers for the past few years’.
Lead author Dr Paul Carter, of Aston University in Birmingham, said: ‘Women with a diagnosis of high cholesterol have strikingly lower rates of breast cancer with improved death rates and survival.
‘This gives a strong indication that statins produce this protective effect in breast cancer’.
The study followed up women both with and without a high cholesterol aged over 40 and compared it to mortality rates and breast cancer developments across the two groups.
Statin patients up to 43% less likely to die of breast cancer
About 50,000 women are diagnosed each year in the UK with the disease.
Approximately 63million prescriptions for lipophilic statins were handed out on the NHS last year.
Around six million Britons take statins to reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke by lowering cholesterol.
But there is growing evidence the pills may have far-reaching health benefits and help fight dementia, multiple sclerosis and several types of cancer.
Yet many doctors are reluctant to prescribe them due to ongoing controversy over their side effects and they have been linked to diabetes and severe muscular pain.
The latest findings were presented to leading cancer doctors and academics from around the world at the European Society of Cardiology conference in Barcelona.
It is the second major study to make the link, with the American Society for Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago hearing .
In June, scientists from the National Cancer Centre in Beijing compiled previously published studies from the UK, the rest of Europe and the US.
These covered data about 197,048 women, including whether they happened to have been taking statins at the time of their breast cancer diagnosis.
It showed that, on average, participants who had taken any kind of statin were 27 per cent less likely to die within four years than those who had never used the drugs.
The effect was far greater if women had taken the type most commonly used in the UK – lipophilic statins. These patients were 43 per cent less likely to die from breast cancer.
Clinical trials are set to follow in order to determine whether women should be routinely provided with statins.