As of 2015, about 33% of people in the U.S. have high cholesterol. High cholesterol can lead to heart disease or heart attack. A new study is shaking things up by finding that having high cholesterol may mean reduced breast cancer risk.
Across the world, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women and is the fifth most common cause of death from cancer. In 2012, almost a quarter of all new cancer cases globally in women were breast cancer.
Breast cancer is mostly found in women, but men can develop it as well. Breast cancer is caused by abnormal cell growth in the breast tissue.
For the study, researchers at Aston University in the United Kingdom studied over 1 million people for 14 years. They analyzed the information of patients attending various hospitals in Northwest England.
The participants were at least 40 years old and female. Some had high cholesterol and others did not at the beginning of the study.
For the analysis portion, the researchers added one group of 16,043 women that had high cholesterol and one group with the same amount of women, but without high cholesterol. Their median age was 66 years old.
This study went underway because, according to Dr. Haul Potluri, “We previously found an association between having high cholesterol and developing breast cancer so we designed this study to follow up patients longitudinally and address the relationship more robustly,” says Dr. Rahul Potluri, senior author of the study.”
After 14 years of comparing the follow-up data on these 2 groups, the researchers found a smaller correlation between the group that had high cholesterol than the group that did not have high cholesterol. Upon further examination, they found that the women with high cholesterol had lower odds (odds at .67 ratio) of breast cancer than the other group of women.
Additionally, the group that had high cholesterol at the beginning of the study showed a lower death rate than women with normal cholesterol (13.8% compared to 23.7%).
Even with accounting for ethnicity, age, and other health factors, they found that still had lower odds of dying from breast cancer. Essentially, there finding shows that high cholesterol may mean reduced breast cancer risk.
Dr. Potluri stated, “If a diagnosis of high cholesterol leads to lower breast cancer rates this must either relate to something inherent in the condition or affected patients, or more likely, to treatment with widely used cholesterol lowering interventions such as statins.”
Statins, the researchers believe, may be playing a large role in the patients with high blood pressure to reduce the risk of breast cancer. While these findings are inconclusive and not the definitive answer, it does raise an interesting question about the long term effects of statins.
This in no way is a suggestion to get high cholesterol, but a mere observation of two different groups. High cholesterol is still considered unhealthy and can lead to other serious health issues.