Tipping Point: Louise Minchin donates winnings to cancer charity
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Statins are most commonly used to treat cholesterol.
They do this by reducing how much cholesterol is produced in the liver.
As well as treating one of the most common and easily treatable conditions in the UK, statins are also Britain’s most prescribed medicine.
Evidence has now emerged from the Max Delbruck Centre in Germany that statins could stop cancer tumours from spreading around the body.
They do this by targeting a gene known as MACC1; this gene drives the spread of cancer.
Research suggests statins have this impact on more than 20 forms of cancer including liver, stomach, breast, and bowel cancer.
Data from the same research also suggested taking statins halved the incidence of cancer compared with the general population.
As a result, statins could become a useful multitool in the battle against cancer and other diseases.
However, lead Professor Ulrike Stein cautioned: “We are still at the very beginning.”
This isn’t the first-time statins have been linked to a reduced risk of cancer.
Research carried out in Texas found women with breast cancer who had started taking statins were over 50 percent more likely to survive for three or more years.
Lead researcher Kevin Nead said: “We know that statins decrease breast cancer cell division and increase cell death in laboratory studies.”
As well as cancer, there is hope statins could be used against dementia, a set of diseases for which there is no cure and few effective treatments.
In 2021 research from the University of Milan found people in older age groups who took high dose statins had a 20 percent lower risk of developing dementia; those on a low dose had a 16 percent lowered risk.
The reason for statins’ potential protective effects, say the researchers in the European Journal of Preventive
Cardiology, could be down to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Professor of Metabolic Medicine at the University of Manchester Naveed Sattar cautioned the results.
Sattar noted: “The unexpected benefits may just be coincidence, or due to things such as the act of taking statins makes people more aware of their health, so they may have improved their lifestyle as a result.”
Furthermore, there is another element to be wary of.
While the research is positive and the hope is that it could lead to new treatments, it should be noted that there are multiple statin types and dosages.
What works for one person may not work for another and vice versa; more research and funding is required so these medicines can be refined and to patients.
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