Thursday, November 5, 2009

Maintaining Healthy Cholesterol Levels May Lower Risk of Prostate Cancer

Men who keep their cholesterol levels in check may decrease their chances of developing prostate cancer, in addition to keeping their heart healthy, as science has already shown. In fact, two recent studies indicate that maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol may be a good form of cancer prevention.

In one study, results showed that men who retained healthy levels of cholesterol in the range below 200 actually cut their risk of developing high-risk prostate tumors by more than 50 percent in comparison to men with high ranging cholesterol levels. In the second study, findings showed that men with high levels of good (HDL) cholesterol were slightly less likely to develop prostate cancer in any form, compared to men with very low HDL cholesterol levels.

The studies were recently published in the journal of the American Association for Cancer Research called Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention. Both studies support prior research indicating that by limiting fats in the bloodstream, the risk of cancer can be lowered.

According to Elizabeth Platz of Johns Hopkins University who led the first study, “There might be this added benefit to keeping cholesterol low.” For the study, Platz’s team analyzed data of 5,586 men aged 55 and older that came from the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial conducted back in the 1990s. All of these men had been a part of the placebo group during the trial.

Among the group, a total of 60 of the men developed high-risk, aggressive tumors that are known to grow and spread quickly. By comparing cholesterol levels of all the men in the group, it was revealed that those men with cholesterol levels under 200 had a 59 percent less chance of developing one of these high-risk tumors than those men having high levels of cholesterol.

Platz acknowledged that cholesterol levels had no significant effect on the overall incidence of prostate cancer in the study. However, she pointed out that the association between low cholesterol levels and a reduced incidence of aggressive disease “is a notable reduction which is not often seen for prostate cancer.”

Although the decrease in risk is highly significant, it must be noted that the researchers could not account for the number of men in the study who were taking cholesterol-lowering medications such as statin drugs, which include such name brands as Lipitor, Zocor, and Crestor. Therefore, some of the reduction in risk may have been due to the use of such drugs rather than from generally having low cholesterol levels.

The results of the second study are based on data gathered over 18 years from following more than 29,000 Finnish men who were taking various vitamins and nutrients to test whether or not they could lower their risk for cancer. All of the participants in the study were smokers. According to study leader Dr. Demetrius Albanes of the National Cancer Institute, findings showed that those men having the highest levels of HDL cholesterol were 11 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer than those with lowest levels.

In a statement, Albanes said, “Our study affirms that lower total cholesterol may be caused by undiagnosed cancer.” He then added, “In terms of a public health message, we found that higher levels of good cholesterol seem to be protective for all cancers.”

Researchers from both studies agree that further research is necessary to confirm findings, as well as to identify the molecular mechanisms behind the association.

In the United States, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men. It is estimated that over 192,000 new cases will develop this year alone, and of those, the disease will claim 27,360 lives.

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