Review questions findings of drugs' anti-cancer properties

December 6, 2005

Denver--Responding to research indicating that certain anti-cholesterol drugs also have anti-cancer properties, a recently published review of studies says there is no clear evidence to support that proposition.

Denver-Responding to research indicating that certain anti-cholesterol drugs also have anti-cancer properties, a recently published review of studies says there is no clear evidence to support that proposition.

The review, authored by a research group headed by Robert Dellavalle, M.D., of Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center, found no significant difference in melanoma rates between people taking statins or fibrates for high cholesterol and those who did not. The review, which evaluated 16 studies that included 62,197 people who had been examined for melanomas, appeared in a recent issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an organization that evaluates medical research.

Statins and fibrates, brands of which include Mevacor, Lipitor, Zocor, Abitrate and Lopid, are the most popular drugs prescribed to treat high cholesterol. Research in animals and people taking medications for high cholesterol intimated that such drugs might have anticancer properties. Though the review does not exclude the possibility that these drugs might help prevent melanoma-there was a 10 percent decrease in melanomas among patients taking statin drugs-it concluded that until more solid evidence is made available, limiting exposure to ultraviolet radiation is still the best way to reduce the risk of melanoma.

The drugs used in the 16 studies were lovastatin, pravastatin, simvastatin, bezafibrate, clofibrate and gemfibrozil. Sixty-six melanomas were reported among patients who received statin or fibrate drugs; 86 melanomas were reported among those who received a placebo or a similar therapy.

Dellavalle and colleagues also noted what they called “the dangers of publication bias”: Their review included data from several unpublished studies, but only two of the 11 studies showing no significant link between the drugs and melanoma rates were published.

Related Content:

News