Statin Use Linked to Lower Lung Cancer–Specific Mortality

May 6, 2015

A population-based study found some evidence that the use of statins is linked to reduced rates of cancer-specific mortality among lung cancer patients.

A population-based study found some evidence that the use of statins is linked to reduced rates of cancer-specific mortality among lung cancer patients. The finding would still need to be confirmed in observational cohorts, the authors noted.

In recent decades, potential anticancer properties of cholesterol-lowering statins have received significant attention. “Preclinical studies have proposed a number of relevant biologic mechanisms, including inhibition of cell proliferation, stimulation of anticancer immune surveillance, and interruption of oncogenic signaling,” wrote study authors led by Chris R. Cardwell, PhD, of Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

In the new study, statin use after lung cancer diagnosis was analyzed in 3,638 patients, and before cancer diagnosis in 13,398 patients. Results were published in the May issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

After adjustment for confounders, the investigators found an 11% reduction in the rate of lung cancer–specific mortality in statin users after diagnosis compared with non-users; the hazard ratio was 0.89 (95% CI, 0.78–1.02; P = .09), which was not significant. This differed by number of prescriptions, however: those with 1 to 12 statin prescriptions after diagnosis had a hazard ratio (HR) of 0.94 (95% CI, 0.81–1.09; P = .39), while those with more than 12 prescriptions had an HR of 0.81 (95% CI, 0.67–0.98; P = .03).

There was also some indication that the specific statins used made a difference. Lipophilic statins were more strongly associated with mortality reductions; in particular, simvastatin use yielded an HR for lung cancer–specific mortality of 0.80 (95% CI, 0.69–0.93; P = .003).

There was also a significant association between statin use before diagnosis and lung cancer–specific mortality, with an adjusted HR of 0.88 (95% CI, 0.83–0.93; P < .001). In this case, the number of prescriptions did not change the magnitude of the effect, nor did the specific statin type.

The authors did note that “the cause of any reduction in lung cancer–specific mortality in lung cancer patients using statins is unknown. As with all observational studies, it is not possible to rule out residual confounding by unrecorded or incomplete variables.” They noted in particular that adjustments for cancer stage were not possible in this cohort.

“These results require confirmation in further large epidemiologic studies, particularly those with complete stage data, which could inform the decision to conduct a trial of simvastatin in lung cancer patients,” the authors concluded.