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Statins Associated with 56% Reduction of Pancreatic Cancer Risk in Men

April 25, 2015

New research showed that a single statin lowered risk of pancreatic cancer by 34%, particularly in men who were long-term users of the drugs.

Investigators compared statin use among 536 individuals 21 to 85 years of age who were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and 869 matched disease-free controls. The association between statin use and reduced risk of pancreatic cancer was due largely to the drugs’ impact on the 704 male participants, noted the researchers, who said only men on statins for longer than 10 years were less likely to be diagnosed.

Use of multiple statins slashed cancer risk by 56% in men, but did not lower risk in women, according to the study. Pravastatin was the only exclusively-used statin associated with decreased risk of pancreatic cancer. However, the researchers pointed out, this was the only study to report that association, and it must be examined further before much stock is put in the finding.

Individuals on statins with bioavailability of 12% or higher were less likely to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer than individuals on statins with bioavailability of 5% or less, noted the study. However, wrote the researchers, “Overall, our results do not suggest that specific pharmacologic characteristics might confer an exceptionally low PC [pancreatic cancer] risk.”

Last year, pancreatic cancer took an estimated 40,000 lives, according to the study, which said approximately 75% of individuals stricken with the disease die within a year of diagnosis. The long-term survival rates are equally grim, said the study, with only 6% of disease sufferers surviving beyond 5 years.

The researchers acknowledged that recently updated recommended care guidelines will lead to more Americans taking statins, which have pleiotropic effects that have sparked research in their cancer-fighting potential. In fact, pointed out the researchers, previous studies have showed an association between statin use and lowered risks of gastrointestinal, esophageal, colorectal, and liver cancers, noted the study.

This was the largest trial to examine the association of sex and the pharmacologic properties of statins with pancreatic cancer risk, noted the researchers, who wrote, “The prospective clinical evaluation of statins as preventive therapy in individuals at particularly high risk for pancreatic cancer represents an intriguing possibility.”

The study was published in the journal Cancer.


—Dan Cook



1. Walker EJ, Ko AH, Holly EA, Bracci PM. Statin use and risk of pancreatic cancer: results from a large, clinic-based case-control study. Cancer. 2015;121(8):1287-1294.

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