Background: Meta-analyses of trials of 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-glutaryl-CoA reductase inhibitors or statins for cardiovascular disease prevention have failed to show any statistically significant benefit of statins for cancer prevention. However, these trials included relatively young participants, who develop few cancers, and their follow-up periods may have been too short to detect an association between statin use and cancer incidence. We investigated this association in a population of veterans.
Methods: We identified patients using antihypertensive medications but no cholesterol-lowering medications (n = 25,594) and patients using statins (n = 37,248) who were enrolled in the Veterans Affairs New England Healthcare System between January 1, 1997, and December 31, 2005. Age- and multivariable-adjusted Cox proportional hazards models were used to calculate the hazard ratio (HR) and its 95% confidence interval (CI) for cancer incidence, excluding nonmelanoma skin cancer, among patients taking statins compared with patients taking antihypertensive medications and among patients grouped by statin dose (as equivalent simvastatin dose). All statistical tests were two-sided.
Results: The absolute incidence of total cancers was 9.4% among statin users and 13.2% among nonusers (difference = 3.8%, 95% CI = 3.3% to 4.3%, P(difference) < .001). Statin users had a statistically significant lower risk for total cancer than nonusers after adjustment for age (HR = 0.76, 95% CI = 0.73 to 0.80) and multiple potential confounders (HR = 0.74, 95% CI = 0.70 to 0.78). After multivariable adjustment, a statistically significantly decreased risk of all cancers was also associated with increasing statin use (P(trend) < .001).
Conclusions: Patients using statins may be at lower risk for developing cancer. Additional observational studies and randomized trials of statins for cancer prevention are warranted.