Statins Reduce Liver Cancer Risk

May 22, 2015
HCC Monitor, April 2015,

Statin use was associated with a statistically significant reduction in the risk of liver cancer.

Katherine A. McGlynn, PhD, MPH

Statin use was associated with a statistically significant reduction in the risk of liver cancer, according to a retrospective analysis published in theJournal of the National Cancer Institute. Katherine A. McGlynn, PhD, from the division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute, led the international study and was the lead author of the paper.

"The results of the current study suggest that use of statins among persons at high risk of developing liver cancer, even in low-risk settings, may have a net cancer protective effect," McGlynn et al, wrote. "Risk was particularly reduced among persons with liver disease and persons with diabetes, suggesting that statin use may be especially beneficial in persons at elevated risk of liver cancer."

The study examined medical records for individuals in the United Kingdom, which comprised 8.5% of the total population. Of these records, 1195 were identified as having a first-time diagnosis of primary liver cancer. These patients were matched in a 4:1 ratio to control patients who did not have cancer (n = 4640).

Individuals examined in the study were from low risk regions. In addition to the link between statin use and liver cancer, the study also assessed the impact of preexisting liver disease and diabetes.

Once adjusted for risk, the odds ratio (OR) for the relationship between statin use and liver cancer showed a significant reduction in risk (OR = 0.55; 95% CI, 0.45-0.69). When further analyzing the data, researchers found the reduction in risk was primarily constrained to current statin users (OR = 0.53; 95% CI, 0.42-0.66). The level of risk reduction was similar between individuals prescribed simvastatin, rosuvastatin, and atorvastatin.

"In addition to the current study, three other studies have examined the effect of individual statins and all four have found statistically significantly reduced risk with use of atorvastatin or simvastatin," the authors wrote. "Whether certain statins have different effects on risk of liver cancer is not certain, although the hydrophilic statins such as pravastatin and rosuvastatin are more hepatoselective than are the lipophilic statins such as simvastatin, atorvastatin, lovastatin, and fluvastatin."

The reduction in risk seen with statins was more pronounced in individuals with chronic liver disease. In these patients, the adjusted OR was 0.32 (95% CI, 0.17-0.57). The OR in patients without liver disease was 0.65 (95% CI, 0.52-0.81). Patients with diabetes taking statins saw a similar reduction in risk (OR = 0.30; 95% CI, 0.21-0.42).

"The current study suggests that persons at high risk of liver cancer also experience risk reductions with statin use," McGlynn et al, explained. "An analogous risk reduction was observed among persons with diabetes, lending further evidence in support of a cancer chemopreventive effect in a high-risk group."