An association between high blood cholesterol and breast cancer has been found in a study of more than 1 million patients over a 14 year time period in the United Kingdom ( UK ).
Preliminary data suggest that women with high cholesterol in their blood may be at greater risk of getting breast cancer. 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.
Over the past few years, population studies have suggested an association between obesity and breast cancer. Last year a study in mice concluded that lowering circulating cholesterol or interfering with its metabolism may be used to prevent or treat breast cancer ( Science 2013 ).
The researchers conducted a retrospective analysis of more than 1 million patients across the UK between 2000 and 2013 from the Algorithm for Comorbidities, Associations, Length of stay and Mortality ( ACALM ) clinical database.
There were 664,159 women and of these, 22 938 had hyperlipidaemia and 9 312 had breast cancer. Some 530 women with hyperlipidaemia developed breast cancer.
The researchers used a statistical model to study the association between hyperlipidaemia and breast cancer. They found that having hyperlipidaemia increased the risk of breast cancer by 1.64 times ( 95% confidence interval 1.50-1.79 ).
A prospective study that monitors the risk of breast cancer in women with and without high cholesterol is needed to confirm what researchers 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.
A clinical trial in 10-15 years will test the effect of statins on the incidence of breast cancer. If such a trial is successful, statins may have a role in the prevention of breast cancer especially in high risk groups, such as women with high cholesterol.
In conclusion, researchers have found a significant association between having high cholesterol and developing breast cancer that needs to be explored in more depth.
Caution is needed when interpreting the results because while researchers had a large study population, the analysis was retrospective and observational with inherent limitations. ( Xagena )
Source: Frontiers in CardioVascular Biology ( FCVB ), 2014