Most people associate cholesterol with elevated risk for stroke and heart attacks. However, research indicates there also may be a correlation between cholesterol and cancer, most notably prostate and breast cancers. In fact, lowering cholesterol levels may reduce your risk for some cancers.
A team from Boston Children's Hospital conducted a study where mice were injected human prostate cancer cells. They allowed the cancer to grow. When the animals were fed high cholesterol diets, cholesterol was found to accumulate in the outer membranes of tumor cells. While the increased cholesterol didn't cause new cancers to form, six weeks after the initial injection, the mice on the high-cholesterol diets had twice as many prostate cancer tumors as animals on ordinary diets. Plus, the tumors were larger in size.
In related news, women who suffer from breast cancer may find hope from standard cholesterol treatments. Denise Boudreau, PhD, a research associate at Seattle's Group Health Cooperative, found that statin medications typically prescribed for cholesterol may actually help to prevent breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women. Contrary to prior belief, statin use didn't increase breast cancer risk in her research subjects. The women who used statins for more than five years had 30 percent fewer incidences of breast cancer than those who never used the drugs.
Despite their benefits, many people are reluctant to use statins because of their apparent dangerous side effects.
The most common side effects of statins are muscle pain and weakness, a condition called rhabdomyolysis, most likely due to the depletion of Co-Q10, a nutrient that supports muscle function. Some statins users develop pain immediately after beginning treatment, or the pain can surface months or years later. The pain can become so severe that trouble walking or falls are common. In addition, statins can cause liver damage or failure, or can lead to memory loss.
There is reason to argue, however, that other cholesterol-lowering programs actually may be effective in preventing or controlling some sorts of cancers, since it seems cholesterol feeds cancer tumors. While research is still being conducted on this subject, there are steps a person can take now to improve their general health by keeping cholesterol levels moderated.