Author: Shane Ellison, M.Sc.
Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs and Cancer
By Shane Ellison, M.Sc.
Copyright © 2005
The use of cholesterol-lowering drugs for the prevention of heart disease may increase your chances of suffering from the pandemic killer known as cancer. Few doctors are aware of this real and present danger.
Well-designed studies have shown the link between cholesterol-lowering drug use and cancer. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Thomas B. Newman MD, MPH and co-workers show that all cholesterol-lowering drugs, both the early drugs known as fibrates (glofibrate, gemfibrozil) and the newer drugs known as statins (Lipitor, Pravachol, Zocor), cause cancer in rodents at the equivalent doses used by man. 
The extrapolation of evidence of cancer from rodent to human is very uncertain. This is the argument of those in favor of using cholesterol-lowering drugs. The argument would only be plausible if human studies also showed an increase in cancer rates. And in fact, that is what scientists are finding.
Evidence from the cholesterol-lowering drug trial known as CARE (Cholesterol And Recurrent Events) showed that Pravachol™ (a cholesterol-lowering drug made by Bristol-Myer Squib) reduced the chance of suffering from a heart attack by an absolute reduction rate of 1.1%. This miniscule benefit was accompanied by a 1500% increase in breast cancer among women taking Pravachol. An increase in cancer rates among Pravachol users was also shown in the drug trial known as PROSPER.
It is rare that cancer would show up in most other cholesterol-lowering drug trials. Drug company-funded studies for these drugs are conveniently short in nature, typically 5 years or less. It can take decades for cancer to develop. Consequently, cancer is rarely seen among test subjects. In fact, even heavy smoking will not cause lung cancer within 5 years.  Yet it is a well-known fact that smoking leads to lung cancer. Therefore, as long as statin drug trials last only 5 years, this side effect will continue to fly below the radar.
If cancer were to show up as a negative side effect, there is concern whether or not it would be reported. The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has reported that of 164 statin drug trials reviewed, only 48 reported the number of participants with one or more negative side effects caused by the drug. 
As if in recognition of this, attempts have been made to warn the public. Dr. Gloria Troendle, deputy director for the Division of Metabolism and Endocrine Drug Products for the FDA, noted that the cholesterol-lowering drug, gemfibrozil, belonged to a class of drugs that has repeatedly been shown to increase death rates among users. Moreover, Dr. Troendle stated that she does not believe the FDA has ever approved a drug for long-term use that was as cancer causing at human doses as gemfibrozil. Elizabeth Barbehenn, PhD, concluded to the FDA, “fibrates must be considered as potential human carcinogens and their carcinogenic potential should be part of the risk benefit equation for evaluating gemfibrozil.”
Historically, FDA advisors were reluctant to approve the cholesterol-lowering drugs. When asked to vote whether or not gemfibrozil should be approved for the prevention of heart disease, only 3 out of 9 members of the FDA advisory committee voted in favor of approval. Unfortunately, these votes are only “advisory” and the FDA decided to approve gemfibrozil for human consumption against the better judgment of the committee.
One mechanism by which cholesterol-lowering drugs may cause cancer has been identified. Published in Nature Medicine, Dr. Michael Simons of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston shows that statin drugs mimic a substance known as vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGF). The biochemical VEGF promotes the growth of new blood vessels, a process known as angiogenesis. While angiogenesis may help the growth of arteries, the benefit is quickly negated by the potential for growth of cancer. The British Journal of Cancer reports that VEGF plays an important role in the spread of colorectal cancer. Further, for those who already have tumors, VEGF and compounds that mimic VEGF significantly diminishes that person’s survival time. 
Benefits associated with cholesterol-lowering drugs do not exceed risk. Looking at the “statin-drug trials,” only two of the many cholesterol-lowering trials prevented all-cause death rates when compared to a placebo. The Long Term Intervention with Pravastatin (Pravachol™) in Ischemic Heart Disease (LIPID) trial showed a contemptible 3.1% reduction in absolute total mortality rates. Similarly, the 4S trial showed a minimal 3.3% reduction in absolute total mortality rates among those taking 20-40mg/day of Zocor™. These numbers may be “statistically significant”, yet the low percentages conclude that the statins have little clinical benefit to users.
USA Today reported that, “Statins have killed and injured more people than the government has acknowledged.”  Oblivious to their dangers, medical doctors are calling cholesterol-lowering drugs the “new aspirin” and are even recommending that children be prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs. This is a great example of how marketing hype supersedes medical science.
Health and longevity was not meant to be risky, complicated or expensive. To attenuate the risk of using cholesterol-lowering drugs while preventing heart disease, the general public must utilize healthy lifestyle habits. Most notably, that would be the act of removing highly processed food, especially sugar, from the diet. This will prove to be simple, effective and most affordable.
About the Author
Shane holds a Master’s degree in organic chemistry and has first-hand industry experience with drug research, design and synthesis. He understands that Americans want and deserve education rather than prescriptions. His shocking ebook surrounding cholesterol-lowering drugs can be downloaded for FREE as a pdf file at www.health-fx.net/eBook.pdf. His book Health Myths Exposed is available at www.healthmyths.net or Amazon.
 Newman, Thomas B. et al. Carcinogenicity of Lipid-Lowering Drugs. Journal of the American Medical Association. January 3, 1996-Vol 275, No. 1.
 Ravnskov, Uffe. Statins as the new aspirin. Letters. British Medical Journal. 2002; 324:789 (30 March).
 Law, M.R. et al. Quantifying effect of statins on low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, ischaemic heart disease, and stroke: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2003 June 28; 326 (7404): 1423.
 Wentao Yang, Kristine Klos, Ying Yang, Terry L. Smith, Daren Shi, Dihua Yu. ErbB2 overexpression correlates with increased expression of vascular endothelial growth factors A, C, and D in human breast carcinoma. Cancer. Volume 94, Issue 11, 2002. Pages 2855-2861.
 Sternberg, Steve. USA Today. 08/20/2001.