Can statins really increase cancer survival?

Can statins really increase cancer survival?

In research on statins and cancer, there are very mixed results with some studies suggesting they exert multiple anticancer benefits, including decreased tumour growth, angiogenesis, and metastasis; but others indicating they can make matters worse. One problem is that much of the research supporting statins with cancer relies on in vitro cell studies; much of the criticism comes from real life epidemiology studies. For us, at CANCERactive, the jury is definitely out.

  1. Statins reduce serum cholesterol and there are a good number of studies showing that people with higher blood fat levels, especially saturated fat and LDL levels, develop more metastases and survive least. One study by Dr. Lauren Christine Harshman an assitant professor at both Dana-Faber and Harvard Medical School suggests that taking statins can slow down the rate of progression in prostate cancer where men are also taking hormone therapy (ADT). Prostate cancer progression is known to be linked to blood fat levels.

Go to: Saturated fat and cancer risk

  1. Cholesterol is a major part of cell membrane structure and mevalonate produced in membrane synthesis is a precursor of dolichol which stimulates DNA synthesis and several cancer proteins. Mevalonate is also a precursor to GPP and FPP which regulate the ras and rho genes, which can cause cells to grow wildly. Ras and rho are involved in many cancers and statins like lovastatin and cerivastatin have been shown to block these genes (1)
  2. Statins also seem to increase apoptosis (cancer cell death) in cell lines from brain tumours, mesothelioma and cervical cancer.
  3. There is mixed research on angiogenesis. Some studies suggest statins reduce this; others suggest promotion of blood supplies in a review of statins and cancer in the Oncologist (2).
  4. Indeed, there are strong arguments that statins can actually increase cancer risk due to modifying the immune response(3) and increasing the production of liver enzymes. And there is research showing an increased risk of cancer in the elderly when taking atorvastatin (4), and in people with a history of breast and prostate cancer(5).
  5. There is also mixed research on statins with breast cancer. One Swedish study sought to clear this up and found that both pre-diagnostic statin use and post-diagnostic statin use was linked to lower levels of breast cancer related death.
  6. There also seems to be some evidence for the simultaneous use of both metformin and a statin. One study showed that they synergistically inhibited endometrial cancer growth. Another showed that they reduced recurrence of prostate cancer in type-2 diabetes patients. The statin here was Simvastatin.
  7. Importantly, one of the causes of the conflicting research results may be that not all statins work the same way. It seems that fat soluble (Lipophyllic) statins may have more anti-cancer benefits that water soluble statins. Atorvastatin is a lipophyllic statin.
  8. Cancer patients reading this might prefer to look at the bioactive compound lycopene from tomatoes. There is research showing it can lower cholesterol as well as, or even better than statins, and research showing it reduces fat levels and risk of prostate cancer, aggressive prostate cancer and fatal prostate cancer, without side-effects.

Go to: Is Lycopene better than statins?


  1. Soma MR, Corsini A, Paoletti R. Cholesterol and mevalonic acid modulation in cell metabolism and multiplication. Toxicol Lett 1992;64–65: Spec No1–15.
  4. Ann Intern Med. 2007 Jul 3;147(1):1-9.
  5. N Engl J Med. 2007 Oct 11;357(15):1477-86.
2019 Research
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