Statins Could Help More Than Your Heart

Statin medications may reduce liver cancer risk, even in patients with risk factors like hepatitis B and C and diabetes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) High cholesterol and liver cancer may have a common enemy.

Statins are medications used to reduce cholesterol. A new study found, however, that they may also reduce the risk of liver cancer.

In an interview with dailyRx News, lead study author Katherine A. McGlynn, PhD, of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD, summarized this study's findings.

"We found that statin use was associated with a reduced risk of liver cancer, overall," Dr. McGlynn said. "This finding may have particular significance for individuals at increased risk of liver cancer due to the presence of chronic liver disease or diabetes, as our study found that statins were associated with reduced risk in the presence of these factors."

Liver cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world, according to the World Cancer Research Fund. It is associated with hepatitis B and C infection, excessive alcohol consumption, and obesity and diabetes.

Statins (brand names Zocor and Crestor) are among the most commonly used an anti-cholesterol medications. They are taken to reduce the risk of heart disease. The liver processes statins.

Past studies have suggested that statins may reduce the risk of liver cancer. However, they have been limited to groups where hepatitis B infection is the greatest liver cancer risk factor. This study looked at patients in the United Kingdom where the prevalent risk factors were liver disease and diabetes.

After looking at nearly 1,200 patients with liver cancer and more than 4,600 without it, Dr. McGlynn and team tied statin use to a significantly reduced risk of liver cancer. Current statin users showed the largest reduction.

Even those at risk of liver cancer due to diabetes and liver disease showed a reduced level of liver cancer if they used statins.

"The results of the current study suggest that use of statins among persons at high risk of developing liver cancer, even in low-risk settings, may have a net cancer protective effect," Dr. McGlynn and colleagues wrote.

This study was published online Feb. 26 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health funded this research. Dr. McGlynn and team disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
February 26, 2015
Last Updated:
February 27, 2015