Statins are associated with a reduced risk of hepatocellular carcinoma in a large cohort of patients with diabetes

Gastroenterology. 2009 May;136(5):1601-8. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2009.01.053. Epub 2009 Jan 30.


Background & aims: Experimental studies indicate a potential cancer prevention effect for statins. Given the increasing prevalence of statin use, and the increasing incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the potential association between statins and HCC is an important issue to examine.

Methods: We conducted a matched case-control study nested within a cohort of patients with diabetes. Cases comprised incident HCC at least 6 months after entry in the cohort. Controls were identified by incidence density sampling from patients who remained at risk at the date of the HCC diagnosis matched by age and sex. We identified filled statin prescriptions as well as several potential confounding conditions, medications, as well as propensity score to use statins. Odds ratios (ORs) as estimates of the relative risk for HCC associated with statin use and 95% confidence intervals were obtained using conditional logistic regression.

Results: We examined 1303 cases and 5212 controls. The mean age was 72 years and 99% were men. A significantly smaller proportion of cases (34.3%) had at least one filled prescription for statins than controls (53.1%). There were no significant associations between HCC and nonstatin cholesterol- or triglyceride-lowering medications. The unadjusted OR for any statin prescription was 0.46 (95% confidence interval, 0.40-0.517) and the adjusted OR was 0.74 (95% confidence interval, 0.64-0.87). To reduce the potential confounding effect of existing liver disease, we ran the analyses in a subgroup of patients without recorded liver disease; the ORs were slightly attenuated but remained highly significant for any statin prescription (0.63; 95% confidence interval, 0.50-0.78).

Conclusions: Statin use is associated with a significant reduction in the risk of HCC among patients with diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / prevention & control*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Liver Diseases / complications
  • Liver Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Male
  • Risk


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors