Cancer and Cholesterol: Is There a Connection?

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Cancer and Cholesterol Is There a ConnectionHigh cholesterol in the blood has been previously linked to a number of well-known diseases, including stroke, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and dementia. But were you aware that high cholesterol levels are also associated with a greater risk of developing cancer?

A new British research team, who recently presented their findings at the Frontiers in Cardiovascular Biology meeting in Barcelona, Spain, found that women who have blood cholesterol levels that are higher than normal are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

This new study particularly points to the increase in the LDL (“bad”) cholesterol typically found in abnormally higher levels in many people. Although some previous research data had indicated that obesity in women was the driving force in the increased risk of breast cancer, LDL cholesterol may actually be the culprit.

This study included data on 664,159 women. It tracked the association between the number of women who were diagnosed with breast cancer and their levels of blood cholesterol over a 13-year period.

The findings indicated that women who had high levels of cholesterol were 1.64 times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer relative to those women who had normal levels of blood cholesterol.

The lead author, Dr. R. Potluri, stated, “We found a significant association between having high cholesterol and developing breast cancer that needs to be explored in more depth.”

Breast cancer accounts for the most common type of female cancer and the second leading cause of death among U.S. females. Estimates from the American Cancer Society suggest that approximately 232,670 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year in the U.S.

My thoughts?

This study is certainly an interesting one in that it involves a large sample size and longer follow-up period. However, it is an observational study only, which has limitations. The results of this particular study were gleaned primarily by using several statistical models, which may, in fact, prove to be misleading as they point to high LDL cholesterol levels as the prima facie factor surrounding the study results.

Although this study can build upon some other previous research findings, it does not prove that high LDL cholesterol increases breast cancer risk independently (i.e., high LDL cholesterol levels were not proven to cause breast cancer). What it does show is that high LDL cholesterol is associated with a higher overall risk of developing breast cancer.

The study also indicates that the conditions inside a woman’s body commonly associated with higher LDL cholesterol may be the real threat to a women’s health, including any increased risk of developing breast cancer.

High LDL cholesterol in women is a sign of significant metabolic dysfunction synonymous with insulin resistance. This condition can be present for years without any evidence of obesity. However, the associated higher levels of inflammation consistent with this metabolic disorder could be a driving force in breast cancer cell replication.

In my view, placing millions of women on cholesterol-lowering drugs in the hope of reducing their risk of breast cancer is inappropriate. However, correcting their insulin resistance is an acceptable practice, which is safe and effective, and has widespread positive health consequences for everyone.

Source for Today’s Article:
Whiteman, H., “Study links high cholesterol to increased risk of breast cancer,” Medical News Today web site, July 6, 2014; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/279108.php.

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