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Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2016 Dec;18(12):72.

Protective Effects of Statins in Cancer: Should They Be Prescribed for High-Risk Patients?

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, 94305, USA.
  • 2Department of Medicine, Division of Oncology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA.
  • 3Division of Public Health Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA, USA.
  • 4Department of Dermatology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA.
  • 5Department of Health Research and Policy, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA.
  • 6Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
  • 7Department of Medicine, Stanford Prevention Research Center, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA.



Statins are one of the most widely prescribed drug classes in the USA. This review aims to summarize recent research on the relationship between statin use and cancer outcomes, in the context of clinical guidelines for statin use in patients with cancer or who are at high risk for cancer.


A growing body of research has investigated the relationship between statins and cancer with mixed results. Cancer incidence has been more extensively studied than cancer survival, though results are inconsistent as some large meta-analyses have not found an association, while other studies have reported improved cancer outcomes with the use of statins. Additionally, two large studies reported increased all-cancer survival with statin use. Studies on specific cancer types in relation to cancer use have also been mixed, though the most promising results appear to be found in gastrointestinal cancers. Few studies have reported an increased risk of cancer incidence or decreased survival with statin use, though this type of association has been more commonly reported for cutaneous cancers. The overall literature on statins in relation to cancer incidence and survival is mixed, and additional research is warranted before any changes in clinical guidelines can be recommended. Future research areas include randomized controlled trials, studies on specific cancer types in relation to statin use, studies on populations without clinical indication for statins, elucidation of underlying biological mechanisms, and investigation of different statin types. However, studies seem to suggest that statins may be protective and are not likely to be harmful in the setting of cancer, suggesting that cancer patients who already take statins should not have this medication discontinued.


Cancer; High-risk patients; Statins

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