BARCELONA (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Women diagnosed with hyperlipidemia had a strikingly reduced risk of subsequently developing breast cancer in a big-data, case-control study, Paul R. Carter, MD, reported at the annual congress of the European Society of Cardiology.

Moreover, those baseline hyperlipidemic women who later got breast cancer had a 40% lower risk of all-cause mortality than did matched nonhyperlipidemic controls diagnosed with the malignancy during follow-up, according to Dr. Carter, a cardiology fellow at Cambridge (England) University.

The inference isn’t that hyperlipidemia somehow protects against the most common type of cancer in women. Indeed, preclinical evidence indicates high cholesterol drives several key steps in carcinogenesis. Rather, the strong implication is that the explanation for the observed preventive effect lies in the pleotropic effects of the statin therapy routinely prescribed in accordance with guidelines once women received the diagnosis of hyperlipidemia, he continued.

“The results of this study provide the strongest justification to date for a clinical trial evaluating the protective effect of statins in patients with breast cancer, and this is what we intend to do,” according to Dr. Carter.

He presented a retrospective longitudinal study of the Algorithm for Comorbidities, Associations, Length of Stay and Mortality database, comprising more than 1.2 million patients admitted for various reasons to selected hospitals in northern England during 2000-2014. This big-data study entailed recruitment of 16,043 women aged 40 years and older who were diagnosed with hyperlipidemia during their hospital stay along with an equal number of age-matched women with normal lipid levels. None of the participants had a breast cancer diagnosis at baseline.

During follow-up, 0.5% of the baseline hyperlipidemic women were diagnosed with breast cancer, as were 0.8% of controls. Because of the large patient numbers involved, this difference was statistically significant, with the baseline hyperlipidemic women showing a 33% reduction in the risk of breast cancer, compared with controls in a multivariate regression analysis adjusted for age, ethnicity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, MI, and heart failure.

The all-cause mortality rate in baseline hyperlipidemic women who later developed breast cancer was 27.4%, significantly lower than the 37.4% rate in normolipidemic women with breast cancer. This translated into an adjusted 40% relative risk reduction.

All-cause mortality occurred during follow-up in 13.7% of breast cancer–free women with baseline hyperlipidemia, compared with 23.6% of nonhyperlipidemic controls without breast cancer.

In an analysis adjusted for age, ethnicity, and the top-10 causes of death in the U.K., women with baseline hyperlipidemia were 40% less likely to die during follow-up than were women without high cholesterol.

Dr. Carter reported having no financial conflicts of interest regarding his study, which was conducted free of commercial support.


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