Men who take statins to lower their cholesterol while undergoing treatment for prostate cancer are 30 percent less likely to see their cancer come back after surgery compared to men who do not use the drugs, according to a new Duke study. And those taking higher doses of the drugs were even less likely to see their cancer recur.
Researchers examined the records of more than 1,300 men who underwent radical prostatectomy, 18 percent of whom were taking statins at the time of surgery. After the surgery, they noted the levels of prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, in the patients’ blood. A rise in PSA levels after surgery usually means a greater chance that the cancer will recur. Only 16 percent of the men taking statins saw a rise in PSA levels, whereas 25 percent of those not taking the drugs saw increases.
Within the statin group, the risk of recurrence was lower in patients taking higher doses. In men taking a dose equivalent to 20 mg of simvastatin a day, the risk of recurrence was reduced 43 percent. Among the men taking the equivalent of more than 20 mg of simvastatin a day, the risk of recurrence was reduced 50 percent. Men who took a statin dose the equivalent of less than 20 mg of simvastatin daily saw no benefit.
There were significant differences between those who took the drugs and those who did not. Statin users tended to be white, older, and heavier than nonusers. They also tended to have more aggressive tumors. Factors like diet, exercise, or whether the men were smokers, though, were not taken into account, meaning that it isn’t entirely clear the results seen in the study are related to the cholesterollowering drugs alone.