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Statins After Diagnosis May Protect From Breast Cancer Mortality

The study covered in this summary was published on as a preprint and has not yet been peer reviewed.

Key Takeaway

  • Statin use after a breast cancer diagnosis was associated with a statistically significant decrease in the risk of dying from the disease. The protective effect was more pronounced in patients with estrogen receptor positive (ER+) disease, as well as in postmenopausal women and women with advanced tumors.

Why This Matters

  • Statins, the most widely prescribed cholesterol lowering medications, have been associated with improved and unchanged breast cancer outcomes in previous studies.

  • Because of the strength of their findings, the investigators say further research is warranted to identify a subgroup of patients who might benefit from adjuvant statin therapy.

Study Design

  • The team reviewed 14,976 women diagnosed with a primary tumor from 2007–2016 in four New Zealand breast cancer registries.

  • The researchers examined pharmaceutical use, hospital discharge, and death records to analyze the association between postdiagnostic use of atorvastatin, pravastatin, and/or simvastatin and breast cancer–specific death over a median follow-up of 4.5 years.

Key Results

  • Overall, 27% of women were taking a statin after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

  • Statin use was associated with a 26% lower risk of breast cancer–specific death after adjusting for comorbidities, demographics, concomitant medication use, and clinical factors.

  • The association was attenuated in new users, defined as women for whom statins were not dispensed in the year before they were diagnosed (hazard ratio [HR], 0.91; 95% CI, 0.69 – 1.19).

  • The protective effect was more pronounced in patients with ER+ disease (HR, 0.77), postmenopausal women (HR, 0.74), and women with stage IIIb, IIIc, or IV disease (HR, 0.65).

  • The was no protective effect with respect to recurrence or distant metastases, and there was no effect in early-stage disease and for premenopausal women.


  • Multiple confounders, including body mass index, alcohol intake, cholesterol levels, and smoking status, were not assessed.

  • The researches did not have access to primary care data, so comorbidities were culled from hospital admission records.


  • The study was funded by the Auckland Medical Research Foundation.

  • The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

This is a summary of a preprint research study, “Post-Diagnostic Statin Use and Breast Cancer–Specific Mortality: A Population-Based Cohort Study,” led by Oliver William Scott of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, provided to you by Medscape. The study has not been peer reviewed. The full text can be found at

M. Alexander Otto is a physician assistant with a master’s degree in medical science and a journalism degree from Newhouse. He is an award-winning medical journalist who has worked for several major news outlets before joining Medscape and also an MIT Knight Science Journalism fellow. Email: [email protected].

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