Statins are associated with a reduced risk of hepatocellular cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Gastroenterology. 2013 Feb;144(2):323-332. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2012.10.005. Epub 2012 Oct 12.


Background & aims: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a leading cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide. Several studies have shown that statins could have chemopreventive effects on HCC. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies that evaluated the effects of statins on the risk of HCC.

Methods: We conducted a systematic search of MEDLINE, Embase, and Web of Science through May 2012 and manually reviewed the literature. Studies were included if they evaluated and clearly defined exposure to statins, reported the incidence of HCC, and reported relative risks or odds ratios (ORs) or provided data for their estimation. Ten studies reporting 4298 cases of HCC in 1,459,417 patients were analyzed. Summary OR estimates with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated using the random effects model. Statistical heterogeneity was assessed with the Cochran's Q statistic and I(2) statistic.

Results: Statin users were less likely to develop HCC than statin nonusers (adjusted OR, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.52-0.76), although the results were heterogeneous (P = .01, I(2) = 59%). This heterogeneity could be accounted for by study location (Asian population [n = 4]: adjusted OR, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.42-0.64; Western population [n = 6]: adjusted OR, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.53-0.85) and design (observational studies [n = 7]: adjusted OR, 0.60; 95% CI, 0.49-0.73; clinical trials [n = 3]: adjusted OR, 0.95; 95% CI, 0.62-1.45).

Conclusions: Based on meta-analysis, statin use is associated with a reduced risk of HCC, most strongly in Asian but also in Western populations. Randomized clinical trials in populations at high risk for HCC (especially in Asian populations with hepatitis B) are warranted.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / blood
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / prevention & control
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Incidence
  • Liver Neoplasms* / blood
  • Liver Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Liver Neoplasms* / prevention & control
  • Risk Assessment / methods*


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Cholesterol