While lowered cholesterol levels are beneficial for the heart is a well established fact, its role in reducing the risk of prostate cancer for men has only recently come to light.
Researchers have been increasingly convinced that the two conditions are related, proving that what's good for the heart is good for the prostate, too.
Dr. William J. Catalona, director of the Clinical Prostate Cancer Program at Northwestern University's Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, said, "This is an upcoming area. There may really be something there." He is also the doctor who pioneered the use of PSA, prostate specific antigen, tests for early detection of prostate cancer.
According to Catalona recent epidemiologic studies which review health records of large numbers of people over relatively long periods of time have found that men who took drugs to reduce their cholesterol levels for other health reasons also had a lower risk for prostate cancer.
Besides it was found that men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer had less risk of an aggressive form of the disease if they were on statin drugs.
Elizabeth A. Platz, an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in one of such studies followed 34,000 men for 10 years and recorded their use of statins every two years. None of these men had prostate cancer at the start of the study.
The results of the study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting last year found that men who took statins had halved their risk of advanced prostate cancer and reduced the the risk of metastatic prostate cancer by one-third, compared to men who did not use the drugs.
Platz saying about her work, that is being done in conjunction with researchers at Harvard University said, "Directly as a result of this study of statin drugs, we are now investigating whether having higher blood cholesterol is associated with a higher future risk of prostate cancer overall. We want to try to sort out the pathways that could affect this."
Catalona said that this could be attributed to cholesterol being one of the key elements in creating testosterone, a hormone that has been linked to prostate cancer risk.
He said, 'The current belief is that some variant of male hormones might promote prostate cancer growth, and [since] the main building block for male hormones is cholesterol by lowering cholesterol levels, you could be lowering excessively high testosterone levels.'
However Catalona added that further studies need to be conducted before men could be recommended to take statin drugs solely to reduce their risk of prostate cancer. Of course for a patient who has already taking been taking these drugs to lower his risk for cardiovascular disease, this could be an added benefit.
He said, "The common theme here is what is heart-healthy may also be prostate-healthy."
The work on cholesterol and prostate cancer follows well-documented research showing that low cholesterol levels, especially LDL or "bad" cholesterol, reduces the risk for cardiovascular disease.