Carcinogenicity of Lipid-Lowering Drugs

Marco Pahor, MD
JAMA. 1996;275(19):1480. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530430023028.
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To the Editor.  —In their article, Drs Newman and Hulley1 reviewed available data about potential carcinogenicity of lipid-lowering drugs and concluded that "most cholesterol-lowering drugs cause or promote cancer in rodents" and "[u]se of cholesterol-lowering drugs should be restricted to those at high risk of short-term CHD death." The authors addressed the issue only partially and failed to report the alternative view that statins may instead protect against cancer. There is emerging evidence that the HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor lovastatin can induce apoptosis in vitro in various cell lines, including tumor cells.2,3 Such an effect was dose dependent and was observed at low doses (100 nmol/L). The suspected carcinogenic effects are likely to occur at much higher concentrations. Apoptosis or genetically programmed cell death is an efficient mechanism for eliminating cancer cells and, therefore, for aborting cancer growth.4 Anticancer drugs act mainly by inducing apoptosis, and HMG-CoA reductase


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