Statins may not protect men from prostate cancer

August 17, 2007

While men using statins experienced lower blood levels of androgens, those levels were more likely attributable to poor health than to the use of statins, according to a study that appears to refute previous findings that statins might cut a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer.

While men using statins experienced lower blood levels of androgens, those levels were more likely attributable to poor health than to the use of statins, according to a study that appears to refute previous findings that statins might cut a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer.

“The public health significance is that our study provides evidence that statins may not have a clinically meaningful impact on testosterone in the blood, although further studies should be done,” said first author Susan A. Hall, PhD, of the New England Research Institutes, Watertown, MA. “That doesn’t mean that statins may be lowering prostate cancer risk through one or more alternative pathways, but it doesn’t appear to be working through reduction of male hormones.”

Dr. Hall and colleagues examined data from the Boston Area Community Health survey, a population-based, National Institutes of Health-sponsored epidemiologic study. They looked at medical histories of 1,812 men, including 237 statin users, and analyzed their blood for free testosterone, total testosterone, and other associated compounds.

The team found no relationship between statin use and free testosterone and most of the other associated compounds, as reported in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention (2007; 16:1587-94). There was a significant association between statin use and level of total testosterone in the blood, but that association vanished when researchers considered the patients’ age, body weight, and history of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

“We know that men with higher body mass index, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease tend to have lower testosterone levels, and this largely accounted for the drop in testosterone in statin users,” Dr. Hall said. “In this study, statin use was just a marker for presence of other illnesses. This study may inform that debate, however, by suggesting that any protective pathway offered by statins, if it exists, is not through androgen suppression.”