Low cholesterol may shrink risk for high-grade prostate cancer

November 3, 2009

Men with lower cholesterol are less likely than those with higher levels to develop high-grade prostate cancer - an aggressive form of the disease with a poorer prognosis, according to results of a Johns Hopkins collaborative study.

In a prospective study of more than 5,000 U.S. men, epidemiologists say they now have evidence that having lower levels of heart-clogging fat may cut a man's risk of this form of cancer by nearly 60 percent.

"For many reasons, we know that it's good to have a cholesterol level within the normal range," says Elizabeth Platz, Sc.D., M.P.H., associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and co-director of the cancer prevention and control program at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. "Now, we have more evidence that among the benefits of low cholesterol may be a lower risk for potentially deadly prostate cancers."

Normal range is defined as less than 200 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter of blood) of total cholesterol.

Platz and her colleagues found similar results in a study first published in 2008, and in 2006, she linked use of cholesterol-lowering to lower risk of advanced prostate cancer.

For the current study, Platz, members of the Southwest Oncology Group, and other collaborators analyzed data from 5,586 men aged 55 and older enrolled in the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial from 1993 to 1996. Some 1,251 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer during the study period.

Men with cholesterol levels lower than 200 mg/dL had a 59 percent lower risk of developing high-grade prostate cancers, which tend to grow and spread rapidly. High-grade cancers are identified by a pathological ranking called the Gleason score. Scores at the highest end of the scale, between eight and 10, indicate cancers considered the most worrisome to pathologists who examine samples of the diseased prostate under the microscope.

In Platz's study, had no significant effect on the entire spectrum of prostate cancer incidence, only those that were high-grade, she says.

Platz cautions that, while the group took into account factors that could bias the results, such as smoking history, weight, family history of , and dietary cholesterol, other things could have affected their results. One example is whether men in the study were taking cholesterol-lowering drugs at the time of the blood collections, a data point the researchers expect to analyze soon.

Results of the current study are expected to be published online Nov. 3 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Also in the journal is an accompanying paper from the National Cancer Institute showing that lower cholesterol in men conferred a 15 percent decrease in overall cancer cases.

"Cholesterol may affect cancer cells at a level where it influences key signaling pathways controlling cell survival," says Platz. "Cancer cells use these survival pathways to evade the normal cycle of cell life and death."

She says that targeting cholesterol metabolism may be one route to treating and preventing the disease, but this remains to be tested.

Source: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

Explore further: Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs May Also Lower PSA, but Whether They Cut Cancer Risk is Still Not Known

Related Stories

Lowering your cholesterol may decrease your risk of cancer

February 23, 2009

Current research suggests that lowering cholesterol may block the growth of prostate tumors. The related report by Solomon et al, "Ezetimibe Is an Inhibitor of Tumor Angiogenesis," appears in the March 2009 issue of The ...

Statins alter prostate cancer patients' PSA levels

April 28, 2009

Beyond lowering cholesterol, statin medications have been found to have numerous other health benefits, including lowering a healthy man's risk of developing advanced prostate cancer, as well as lowering his prostate-specific ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.