Statins May Prevent Colorectal Cancer in IBD Patients

Statins are a type of drug typically prescribed to control high cholesterol, but could these medications reduce the risk of colon cancer in certain individuals?

A recent study led by Ashwin N. Ananthakrishnan, MD, MPH, of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, found that statin use was associated with a lower risk of colon cancer in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Ananthakrishnan and his colleagues examined the data of11,001 IBD patients who were treated at hospitals in the Greater Boston metropolitan area from 1998 to 2010. The research team calculated the number of colorectal cancer diagnoses and verified through electronic prescriptions whether statins were used prior to diagnosis. They determined that 12.5 percent of patients within the study received at least one statin prescription. These patients were more likely to be older, white, male, smokers, and have greater comorbidities than patients who did not use statins.

Over a follow-up period of nine years, the researchers found that two percent of patients who used statins received a colorectal cancer diagnosis, whereas three percent of non-statin users were diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Because patients with certain types of IBD, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, have a greater risk of colon cancer than the general population, the results of this study are encouraging. However, further research is needed to understand how statins may influence colorectal cancer risk.

“Our findings were robust on a variety of sensitivity and subgroup analyses,” said the research team. “In conclusion, using a large, well-characterized cohort of patients with IBD, we show an inverse association between statin use and risk of colorectal cancer. There is a need for mechanistic studies on the role of statins in colitis-associated cancer to supplement the existing data on sporadic colon cancer. Further confirmation from other cohorts may provide support for the use of statins as a chemopreventive in patients with IBD.”

The results of this study are published in the medical journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology (Source: Healio).