High cholesterol and triglycerides could encourage the return of prostate cancer, providing an additional health concern for men battling the disease. Each is a form of fat, or lipid, found in blood.
Duke University researchers examined 843 men who had their prostates removed due to cancer, in a process known as radical prostatectomy. These subjects had never taken statins, a class of drugs used to lower cholesterol levels. They found that patients with serum triglyceride levels of 150 mg/dL or greater had a 35 percent greater chance than others of seeing prostate cancer return after surgery. Healthy triglyceride levels vary, depending on age and gender, according to the American Heart Association.
"Given that 45 percent of deaths worldwide can be attributed to cardiovascular disease and cancer, with prostate cancer being the second most common cause of male cancer deaths in the United States, understanding the role of dyslipidemia [abnormal lipid levels] as a shared, modifiable risk factor for both of these common causes of mortality is of great importance," Emma Allott, postdoctoral associate at Duke University School of Medicine, said.
Men with total serum cholesterol measurements of 200 mg/dL or higher were found to increase risk of cancer recurrence by nine percent for each increment of 10 mg/dL. "Good cholesterol," or HDL, was found to lower risk of recurrence for prostate cancer patients by 39 percent for each such increase.
"Understanding associations between obesity, cholesterol, and prostate cancer is important given that cholesterol levels are readily modifiable with diet and/or statin use, and could therefore have important, practical implications for prostate cancer prevention and treatment," Allott stated in a press release.
Lipid levels could now be utilized by patients and doctors as a means of managing health following prostate cancer.
Statins, such as Lipitor, should not be taken as a means of controlling the return of prostate cancer until further research is carried out, according to some physicians.
"This is a study of association, not causality. here might be ways to modify risk factors for prostate cancer recurrence that need to be studied. But this study doesn't prove that lowering cholesterol works," Anthony D'Amico, chief of radiation oncology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said.
Critics of the study would like to see further tests, comparing statins to placebos in a prostate cancer study.
Prostate cancer is diagnosed in 80 percent of men who reach the age of 80, making it one of the most-common forms of the disease.
Study of the effect of cholesterol on the recurrence of prostate cancer was detailed in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.