A new National Cancer Institute study, examining the lives and deaths of 30,000 Swedish smokers, has concluded that low total cholesterol, which was thought to be a risk factor for future cancer, may have been a sign of cancer itself.
(Ah, Homer. Is there nothing you can't make funny?)
The low cholesterol-cancer link has long confused scientists, but Demetrius Albanes and his team found that the supposed increased risk of cancer disappeared after nine years, meaning "lower total cholesterol may be caused by undiagnosed cancer."
The same study showed a link between high levels of HDL or "good" cholesterol and a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. The research will go into the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.
A second study, conducted at Johns Hopkins, found a total cholesterol level below 200 reduced the chances of getting a highly-aggressive form of prostate cancer by 59%. Elizabeth Platz and her team examined the cases of 5,586 men given placebos in a previous prostate cancer prevention trial, of whom 1,281 had gotten the cancer.
The bottom line here is more good news for statins like simvastatin, which were originally developed against heart disease. Keeping total cholesterol low reduces the chance of cancer. So does keeping good cholesterol high. If yours suddenly drops to a very low level see your doctor.
A personal note. My own cholesterol was over 300 before I went on statins 10 years ago, and now sits around 150. Due to a family history of very low HDL cholesterol levels, I was also put on timed-release niacin (available as a dietary supplement at most drug stores, as well as in the drug Niaspan) and now those numbers are tickety-boo.
Hope your numbers are happy, too.
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com