Background: The prognosis from coronary heart disease (CHD) for patients with heterozygous familial hypercholesterolaemia has improved substantially since the introduction of HMG Co-A reductase inhibitors (statins), but the effect of lipid-lowering drug therapy combined with dietary and life style advice on non-coronary mortality and the risk of fatal cancer is unclear.
Methods: The cohort of 2871 patients was recruited from 21 outpatient lipid clinics in the UK from 1980 to 1998 and was followed for 22,992 person-years. The standardised mortality ratio (SMR) was calculated from the ratio of the number of deaths observed to the number expected in the general population of England and Wales.
Results: There were 169 deaths, including 102 (60.4%) from CHD, and 32 (18.9%) from cancer. The SMR for CHD was 2.5-fold higher than in the general population (95% CI 2.1, 3.1), but the all-cause SMR was not increased (1.1, 95% CI 0.9, 1.3) and non-coronary mortality was significantly lower in men (0.5, 95% CI 0.3, 0.7) and women (0.6, 95% CI 0.4, 0.9). The SMR for all cancers was significantly reduced (0.6, 95% CI 0.4, 0.8) with an 80% reduction in fatal cancers of the respiratory and intra-thoracic organs and a non-significant reduction in fatal cancers of the genitourinary and digestive organs.
Conclusions: Although the study cannot exclude the possibility that statins have anti-cancer activity, the results strongly suggest that giving advice to consume a healthy diet, increase physical activity and stop smoking is associated with a substantial reduction in mortality from cancer.