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Lipid-lowering drugs appear to decrease risk of colorectal cancer death across subgroups



Use of statins or other lipid-lowering drugs was associated with a lower risk of dying from colorectal cancer in a large study, investigators reported.

Use of lipid-lowering medication was linked to a 56% lower risk of colorectal cancer death among individuals with no cancer at baseline who were enrolled in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. The reduction in mortality risk was evident regardless of sex, race, age, or how long patients had been on lipid-lowering drugs.

Michael T. Marrone, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and colleagues detailed these findings in a poster presented at the AACR virtual meeting II.

“Definitely for those individuals at average risk for colorectal cancer, if their primary care doctor recommends a lipid-lowering medication for cardiovascular disease prevention, they should follow their doctor’s advice,” Dr. Marrone said in an interview.

“We really can’t say that they should take this specifically for colon cancer prevention, but they should just follow the recommendation for cardiovascular disease prevention,” he added.

While previous studies have linked lipid-lowering drugs, and statins in particular, to a modestly reduced risk of developing colorectal cancer, the impact on risk by factors such as sex, race, and duration of use have not been well characterized, according to Dr. Marrone.

Another motivation for this study was to determine, in participants free of cancer at baseline, the risk of actually dying from this cancer. “That endpoint has not been well studied in the literature at all,” Dr. Marrone said.

To address those gaps, Dr. Marrone and colleagues analyzed data on 14,428 patients from the ARIC study who were cancer free at study visits between 1990 and 1992. Follow-up continued through the end of 2015 or until death, whichever came first.

A total of 384 incident colorectal cancer cases and 144 deaths were seen over 290,249 person-years at risk. The patients’ mean age was 57 years, 54.9% were women, and 27.9% were black. At scheduled follow-up visits from 1996 to 1998, 22% of patients were taking lipid-lowering drugs, mostly statins.

Compared with patients who never used lipid-lowering medications, patients who had ever used a lipid-lowering drug had a lower risk of colorectal cancer incidence (hazard ratio, 0.72). The incidence of colorectal cancer was lower among all lipid-lowering drug users, including men (HR, 0.69), women (HR, 0.76), black patients (HR, 0.60), and white patients (HR, 0.77).

Similarly, colorectal cancer–related death was lower among patients who had ever used a lipid-lowering drug (HR, 0.44). That association was apparent in men (HR, 0.58), women (HR, 0.33), black patients (HR, 0.63), and white patients (HR, 0.40).

In addition, the mortality risk was lower among lipid-lowering drug users regardless of duration of use or age at first use. The HR was 0.50 for patients taking lipid-lowering drugs for less than 15 years and 0.44 for patients taking the drugs for 15 years or more. HRs by age were 0.69 for patients aged 50-59 years, 0.45 for patients aged 60-69 years, and 0.57 for patients aged 70 and older.

While results of this particular study do help “move the needle forward” in terms of characterizing the relationship between lipid-lowering drugs and colorectal cancer risk, further studies are needed to better characterize the effects of long-term statin use, said Jennifer M. Weiss, MD, of the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Clinical studies of the impact of statins on colorectal neoplasias have produced inconsistent results, Dr. Weiss and coauthor Bryson W. Katona, MD, PhD, wrote in a review article on chemoprevention in colorectal cancer.

“I definitely think there have been some studies that showed a modestly reduced risk,” Dr. Weiss said in an interview. “Unfortunately, there are also are some studies that show an increased risk of adenomas, and then there’s some studies that show no significant change. So we just can’t unequivocally confirm that there’s a significant association between statin use and decreased risk of developing colorectal cancer or adenomas.”

This research was funded by grants from the National Cancer Institute; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the National Program of Cancer Registries; and the American Association for Cancer Research. Dr. Marrone disclosed no conflicts of interest. Dr. Weiss was an investigator for the CPP FAP-310 trial (NCT01483144) and received no salary support for her participation in the trial.

SOURCE: Marrone MT et al. AACR 2020, Abstract 2357.

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