A Mendelian randomization study of the effects of blood lipids on breast cancer risk

Nat Commun. 2018 Sep 27;9(1):3957. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-06467-9.


Observational studies have reported inconsistent associations between circulating lipids and breast cancer risk. Using results from >400,000 participants in two-sample Mendelian randomization, we show that genetically raised LDL-cholesterol is associated with higher risk of breast cancer (odds ratio, OR, per standard deviation, 1.09, 95% confidence interval, 1.02-1.18, P = 0.020) and estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer (OR 1.14 [1.05-1.24] P = 0.004). Genetically raised HDL-cholesterol is associated with higher risk of ER-positive breast cancer (OR 1.13 [1.01-1.26] P = 0.037). HDL-cholesterol-raising variants in the gene encoding the target of CETP inhibitors are associated with higher risk of breast cancer (OR 1.07 [1.03-1.11] P = 0.001) and ER-positive breast cancer (OR 1.08 [1.03-1.13] P = 0.001). LDL-cholesterol-lowering variants mimicking PCSK9 inhibitors are associated (P = 0.014) with lower breast cancer risk. We find no effects related to the statin and ezetimibe target genes. The possible risk-promoting effects of raised LDL-cholesterol and CETP-mediated raised HDL-cholesterol have implications for breast cancer prevention and clinical trials.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / blood*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Mendelian Randomization Analysis*
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Lipids