A recent study suggests that taking statins – the cholesterol-busting drugs – reduces the risk of death in patients suffering from lung cancer.

New research reveals that lung cancer patients who either took statins a year prior to diagnosis or a year after being diagnosed had lower chances of dying from lung cancer.

Using data from the English Cancer Registry, researchers at Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland studied information from almost 14,000 patients who were listed as being recently diagnosed with lung cancer, between the years of 1998 and 2009. 

The scientists were looking for evidence of whether patients with lung cancer who had taken statins showed any improvement and if they had a better rate of survival. 

The researchers compared the prescription records of lung cancer patients from the U.K. Clinical Practice Research Datalink and gathered mortality data for lung cancer patients up through 2012 from the Office of National Statistics.

They found that of the patients who lived for at least six months after being diagnosed with lung cancer, the ones who had taken statins following their diagnosis had an 11 percent reduction in death rate. This figure, however, is statistically nonsignificant.

Patients who took a minimum of 12 statin prescriptions showed a statistically significant 19 percent decrease in lung cancer-related deaths. Interestingly, patients who took lipophilic statins like simvastatin also showed a 19 percent lowered risk of lung cancer-related deaths.

Moreover, patients who took statins a year prior to being diagnosed with lung cancer showed a 12 percent reduction, which is statistically significant.

"Our study provides some evidence that lung cancer patients who used statins had a reduction in the risk of death from lung cancer," noted Chris Cardwell, PhD, a lecturer in medical statistics at Queen's University Belfast.

The results did not differ for small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer patients.

The researchers also explored whether currently available drugs could also be used in new treatments. They're not only more economically viable, but the side effects of these drugs are known.

Cardwell added that whereas the study was too limited in nature to confirm the connection between statins and protection against death by lung cancer, the findings from the studies are promising enough to merit further research. 

This study was published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

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