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Statin use may cut liver cancer risk in diabetics

Reuters Health • The Doctor's Channel Daily Newscast

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Statin therapy is associated with a reduced risk of hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with diabetes, according to a report in the June issue of Gastroenterology.

The impact of statin use on hepatocellular carcinoma has been unclear, Dr. Hashem B. El-Serag and co-researchers note. There is experimental evidence that use of statins may help prevent or slow liver cancer progression, but on the other hand, findings from rodent studies have linked statins to hepatic adenomas and carcinomas.

To clarify this topic, Dr. El-Serag, from Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, and colleagues assessed statin use in 1303 diabetics who developed hepatocellular carcinoma and in 5212 diabetics who did not. The researchers studied diabetics because of their inherently higher risk of hepatocellular carcinoma. Nearly all of the subjects were men and the average age was 72 years.

Overall, significantly fewer case patients than controls had filled at least one prescription for a statin: 34.3% vs. 53.1%.

On initial analysis, use of any statin reduced the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (odds ratio, 0.46), the report indicates. After limiting the analysis to patients without recorded liver disease, the risk reduction was not as strong (odds ratio, 0.63).

“This large, nested, matched, case-control study in patients with diabetes provides the first indication of a cancer-preventive effect for statins specific to hepatocellular carcinoma,” the investigators conclude. “These findings need to be confirmed in future studies.”

Reference:
Gastroenterol 2009;136:1601-1608.