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Scientists have found a link between high blood cholesterol and breast cancer in a study involving more than 1 million patients over a 14-year period in the UK.
The preliminary study suggests that women with high cholesterol in their blood are at greater risk of getting breast cancer.
Dr Rahul Potluri, founder of the ACALM Study Unit and lead author in the field said, “It raises the possibility of preventing breast cancer with statins, which lower cholesterol, but as this is a primitive study, significant time and research is needed before this idea can be tested.”
In this study, Potluri and his research team conducted an analysis of more than 1 million patients across the UK between the years of 2000 and 2013. There were 664,159 women, and of these, 22,938 had high cholesterol levels, and 9,312 had breast cancer. Some 530 with high cholesterol later went on to develop breast cancer. They found that having high cholesterol increased the risk of breast cancer by 1.64 times.
“We found that women with high cholesterol has a significantly greater chance of developing breast cancer. This was an observational study so we can’t conclude that high cholesterol causes breast cancer but the strength of this association warrants further investigation. Another study that monitors the risk of breast cancer in women with and without high cholesterol is needed to confirm what we have already observed. If the connection between high cholesterol and breast cancer is validated, the next step would be to see if lowering cholesterol with statins can reduce the risk of developing cancer.”
Over the past few years, research involving millions of patients across the country has suggested a strong association between obesity and breast cancer. Only last year a study with mice concluded that lowering circulating cholesterol or interfering with its metabolism may be used to prevent or treat breast cancer.
Dr Polturi continued, “We have a general principle that obesity is linked to breast cancer and a study in mice suggested that this may be because of cholesterol. We decided to investigate whether there was any association between hyperlipidaemia, which is essentially high cholesterol, and breast cancer.”
The next step for scientists is to see if statins can play a role in the prevention of cancer cell development, especially in higher risk groups – such as women with high cholesterol.