A Link between High Cholesterol and Breast Cancer

A Link between High Cholesterol and Breast Cancer

Take-Home Message:

Women with high cholesterol are less likely to develop breast cancer. If they do develop breast cancer, they have a better prognosis.


Patients with a diagnosis of hyperlipidaemia have a reduced risk of developing breast cancer and lower mortality rates: a large retrospective longitudinal cohort study from the UK ACALM registry

Authors: Carter, PR, et. al.

Source: Presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress365, August 2017


Links between high cholesterol (lipid) levels and breast cancer are being studied. This presentation expanded on previous work of the research group, who found an association between hypercholesterolemia and breast cancer.

For this study, the investigators selected participants from a larger study of over 1.2 million women. Over 16,000 women had hypercholesterolemia, and they were compared to similar women who did not have the disease. They were followed for 13 years.

Researchers found that women with high cholesterol levels were 45% less likely to develop breast cancer. Regarding women in both groups who developed breast cancer, the women with hypercholesterolemia were 40% less likely to die of the disease.

The reasons for the differences require explanation. The investigators noted that, while a biologic effect of elevated cholesterol may be responsible for the observed outcomes, cholesterol-lowering medications may play a much larger role. Many patients with hypercholesterolemia are treated with statins — a class of drugs to treat high blood cholesterol levels. Statins have been shown in animal models to reduce breast cancer risk, and it is expected that they have the same effect in humans. The research group intends to look at the possible role of statins in protecting women against breast cancer.