Serum cholesterol and cancer in the NHANES I epidemiologic followup study. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

Lancet. 1987 Aug 8;2(8554):298-301. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(87)90890-7.


The relation between total serum cholesterol and cancer incidence and mortality was studied in a cohort based on a probability sample of the United States population. 5125 men (yielding 459 incident cancers and 258 cancer deaths) and 7363 women (398 cases, 186 deaths) were initially examined in 1971-75 and followed up for a median of 10 years. Men in the lowest cholesterol quintile had nearly double the risk of those in the highest quintile for both incidence and mortality. Among women a similar relation was seen for cancer mortality, but cancer incidence in the lowest quintile was only 1.2 times that of women in the highest quintile. The inverse cholesterol-cancer relation in men was present for cholesterol determinations made 6 or more years before diagnosis of cancer. It may be premature to dismiss the inverse relation between serum cholesterol and cancer simply as a preclinical marker of disease.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cholesterol / blood*
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / blood
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Risk
  • Sex Factors
  • United States


  • Cholesterol