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Statins 'prevent cancer' in transplant patients
Date : - 22/05/2012
Cholesterol-busting statins may reduce the risk of cancer in heart transplant patients, as scientists find a new use for the drugs.
A study of transplant recipients in Switzerland has found that those on statins were less likely to develop cancer and less likely to die than those who were not taking the drug.
The effect did not depend on the patient's cholesterol levels suggesting the drug may have other effects that have not been discovered until now.
The findings were presented at the Heart Failure Congress, a meeting of the European Society of Cardiology, in Belgrade, Serbia.
It comes after researchers said everyone over the age of 50 should be prescribed statins because they reduced the risk of a heart attack or stroke even in those at a relatively low risk.
Cancer is the leading cause of death after heart transplantation in those who survive the initial operation and recovery.
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The drugs to surpress the immune system and prevent donor organs from being rejected are known to increase the risk of cancer.
The study included all 255 patients who underwent heart transplantation at the University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland between 1985 and 2007 and were alive after the first year.
Four in ten were later diagnosed with cancer, however those on a statin were 65 per cent less likely to develop cancer.
Eight years after transplantation more than a third of people who were not taking statins had developed cancer compared with 13 per cent of those taking the drugs.
The benefit persisted long-term as 42 per cent of those not on statins had cancer 12 years after their transplant compared with 22 per cent of those taking them.
Guidelines from the International Society for Heart & Lung Transplantation recommend giving a statin to patients after heart transplantation to reduce narrowing of the arteries.
Lead author Dr Frank Enseleit, deputy director of heart failure and transplantation at University Hospital Zurich, said patients can safely begin statin therapy six months after transplantation and they should take the drug for the rest of their lives.
"We have shown that statin therapy prevents cancer in heart transplant recipients and it is known that statins also prevent graft atherosclerosis," he said. "We have to conclude that it should be a lifelong therapy in heart transplant recipients."
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