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Statins may not cut colon cancer risk

January 08, 2007|From Times wire reports

Lipitor, Zocor and similar cholesterol lowering drugs failed to prevent colon cancer in a study, dimming hope the pills taken by millions of Americans could thwart one of the nation's leading killers.

Laboratory and animal research has suggested in the past that the drugs, called statins, may have anti-cancer properties, blocking compounds the damaged cells need to grow and spread. Studies in people, though, have yielded mixed results.

Now researchers from Boston University School of Medicine found regular use of statins such as Pfizer's Lipitor and Merck's Zocor over at least three months had no effect on the risk of colon or rectal cancer. The results "definitely put a damper" on hopes that statins will prevent the cancer diagnosed in about 150,000 Americans annually, researchers said.

"There was absolutely no effect," said Patricia Coogan, the lead researcher and an associate professor of epidemiology at Boston University. "Based on my data, I do not believe statins will reduce the risk of colorectal cancer."

The latest report adds to a growing body of contradictory evidence about the effects of statins.

For instance, a 2005 report out of Israel found five years of treatment cut colon cancer risk in half. An American Cancer Society study published last year found the drugs didn't lower colorectal cancer rates in 130,000 people who were surveyed.

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute and appeared in the Jan. 3 edition of its medical journal.

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