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Study Looks at Relationship Between High Cholesterol and Lower Breast Cancer Risk

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A study suggests that women diagnosed with high cholesterol are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer; if they are diagnosed with breast cancer, they are less likely to die from it than women without high cholesterol.

The research was presented on Aug. 28, 2017 at the European Society of Cardiology Congress.

Read the abstract of “Patients with a diagnosis of hyperlipidaemia have a reduced risk of developing breast cancer and lower mortality rates: a large retrospective longitudinal cohort study from the UK ACALM registry.”

To do the study, the researchers looked at the records of 16,043 women in the United Kingdom who were admitted to the hospital between Jan. 1, 2000 and March 31, 2013 with a diagnosis of high cholesterol. The women were age 40 or older.

The researchers compared the records of the women with high cholesterol to a group of women of similar ages without high cholesterol. None of the women had been diagnosed with breast cancer when the study started. The average age of the women in the study was 66.

The researchers found that women with high cholesterol were 45% less liked to be diagnosed with breast cancer than women without high cholesterol.

The researchers then adjusted the data for factors that might influence survival, including age, ethnicity, and conditions such as high blood pressure and heart failure. They found that women with high cholesterol who were diagnosed with breast cancer were 40% less likely to die from breast cancer than women without high cholesterol.

Why women with high cholesterol have a lower risk of breast cancer isn’t clear, but the researchers suspect that statins, medicines used to lower cholesterol, might be the reason.

“Compared to those without high cholesterol, patients with high cholesterol had a 45% reduced risk of breast cancer, and if they did develop breast cancer, a 40% reduced chance of death,” said Dr. Rahul Potluri, of Aston University and senior author of the study. “If a diagnosis of high cholesterol leads to lower breast cancer rates, this must either relate to something inherent in the condition or affected patients, or more likely, to treatment with widely used cholesterol lowering interventions such as statins.”

“Our research confirms that women with a diagnosis of high cholesterol have strikingly lower rates of breast cancer with improved death rates and survival,” said Dr. Paul Carter, lead author of the study. “Building on previous research by us and other groups, including animal studies in which statins reduced the risk of breast cancer, this gives a strong indication that statins produce this protective effect in breast cancer.”

Still, it is too early to recommend statins to prevent or slow the growth of breast cancer. Much more research needs to be done to understand exactly how statins might be used to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Stay tuned to Research News for the latest information on links between high cholesterol, statins, and breast cancer.

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