“Statins Protect Against Cancer” - Media Gets it Totally Wrong Again!

This one really is incredible. It shows just how stupid the media have become regarding the reporting of data. I do mean stupid, its not an exaggeration. 

Yesterday, most of the national newspapers in the UK reported on a study allegedly showing that statin medications dramatically reduce cancer deaths.  

For example the headline in The Telegraph was:

Statins linked to dramatically improved mortality rates for cancer patients”

Researchers from Birmingham’s Aston University in the UK presented data at a medical conference in Italy. This data showed a very strong correlation between high cholesterol levels and a much reduced risk of dying of cancer.

Actually, there is nothing revolutionary about this study - we have known for a long time that high cholesterol protects against cancer.

An important paper, published in 2012, authored by Dr Uffe Ravnskov, Dr Kilmer McCully, and Professor Paul J. Rosch, looked at the connection between cholesterol and cancer. Nine studies were described where high cholesterol levels correlated with fewer deaths from cancer. 

 STATIN NATION II

STATIN NATION II

In addition to these studies, data from Japan and Korea also shows a strong correlation between high cholesterol and a greatly reduced risk of cancer.  As can clearly be seen in the screenshots below from Statin Nation II.

 Data from Korea shows a clear relationship between higher cholesterol levels and less liver cancer.

Data from Korea shows a clear relationship between higher cholesterol levels and less liver cancer.

 Data from Japan also shows less liver cancer at higher cholesterol levels

Data from Japan also shows less liver cancer at higher cholesterol levels

The new study that was reported yesterday claimed that statins were responsible for the reduced risk of cancer. This is completely against all logic and common sense. Considering the huge amount of data showing high cholesterol protects against cancer, it is illogical to suggest that cholesterol-lowering statins are providing protection. Of course, we would expect the reverse to be true. And the authors had no basis for their assumptions. The authors did not even look at the number of people who were taking statins - they just made a completely unsubstantiated wild claim. Unfortunately, the main media outlets have long ago lost the ability to stop and think before they regurgitate press releases from research institutions. This is very wrong and very dangerous. 

The Independent, a national newspaper in the UK, wrote:

“The scientists said that the tests indicate the blocking of the hormone oestrogen, which causes high cholesterol through statins, could slow cancer growth dramatically.”

This is a completely nonsensical statement. It simply does not make any sense whatsoever. “Blocking oestrogen”?....”Which causes high cholesterol through statins”? Its just complete nonsense! 

In fact, if we look at the actual clinical trials that have been done, the PROSPER trial found that cancer diagnosis was more frequent for people who took the statin compared with those who did not. In this trial, any benefits that were achieved by slightly reducing the risk of heart disease were counteracted by the increased risk of cancer associated with the statin. Alarmingly, this was seen even with just three years of follow-up. 

Another study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology also found that any cardiovascular benefits were offset by an increased risk of cancer associated with the statin. 

It is obvious that the researchers from Aston University are motivated by a desire to receive research funding from the pharmaceutical companies that make cholesterol-lowering drugs. These researchers and the great majority of the media, unfortunately, are not the least bit interested in providing people with accurate health information. 

 

References:

Ravnskov,U, McCully,K and Rosch,P. The statin - low cholesterol - cancer conundrum. QJM. 2012 Apr;105(4):383-8

Shepherd,J et al. Pravastatin In Elderly Individuals At Risk of Vascular Disease (PROSPER): A Randomized Controlled Trial. The Lancet 2002; 360:1623- 1630

Alsheikh-Ali, AA et al. Effect of the Magnitude of Lipid Lowering on Risk of Elevated Liver Enzymes, Rhabdomyolysis, and Cancer. Journal of the American College of Cardiology 2007; 50:409-418

The Independent’s article

The Telegraph’s article

The Sun’s article

The Daily Mail's article

The press release that prompted the 'news' reports