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J Am Coll Cardiol. 2010 Jun 22;55(25):2846-54. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2009.12.069.

Baseline and on-treatment high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and the risk of cancer in randomized controlled trials of lipid-altering therapy.

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  • 1Molecular Cardiology Research Institute, Department of Medicine, Tufts Medical Center and Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02111, USA.



We sought to examine the relationship between high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels and the risk of the development of cancer in large randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of lipid-altering interventions.


Epidemiologic data demonstrate an inverse relationship between serum total cholesterol levels and incident cancer. We recently reported that lower levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol are associated with a significantly higher risk of incident cancer in a meta-analysis of large RCTs of statin therapy. However, little is known about the relationship between HDL-C levels and cancer risk.


A systematic MEDLINE search identified lipid intervention RCTs with >or=1,000 person-years of follow-up, providing baseline HDL-C levels and rates of incident cancer. Using random-effects meta-regressions, we evaluated the relationship between baseline HDL-C and incident cancer in each RCT arm.


A total of 24 eligible RCTs were identified (28 pharmacologic intervention arms and 23 control arms), with 625,477 person-years of follow-up and 8,185 incident cancers. There was a significant inverse association between baseline HDL-C levels and the rate of incident cancer (p = 0.018). The inverse association persisted after adjusting for baseline low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, age, body mass index (BMI), diabetes, sex, and smoking status, such that for every 10-mg/dl increment in HDL-C, there was a 36% (95% confidence interval: 24% to 47%) relatively lower rate of the development of cancer (p < 0.001).


There is a significant inverse association between HDL-C and the risk of incident cancer that is independent of LDL-C, age, BMI, diabetes, sex, and smoking.

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