Two studies published online Nov. 3 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention may dissolve the long standing concern that low cholesterol levels may lead to a higher risk of cancer.
Jiyoung Ahn, Ph.D., from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues examined the association between serum total and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and cancer risk in 29,093 men.
During 18 years of follow-up, they found a lower risk of cancer overall in men with higher total serum cholesterol and higher HDL cholesterol.
However, the association of higher total cholesterol and cancer risk disappeared if cancers diagnosed during the first nine years of follow-up were excluded, "indicating that lower serum cholesterol may be a marker of existing malignancy and not a causal factor," the authors write.
Elizabeth A. Platz, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues examined the association between serum Cholesterol and prostate cancer risk in 5,586 men who had been randomly assigned to the placebo arm of a clinical trial.
They found that men with low cholesterol had a lower risk of high-grade prostate cancer (Gleason score, eight to 10; odds ratio, 0.41) but not prostate cancer overall or lower grade disease.
Results from the first study "clearly show that low total cholesterol is unlikely to increase risk of cancer," write the authors of an accompanying editorial.
Results from the second study suggest that "analyses to replicate the association between low total cholesterol and reduced risk of high-grade prostate cancer are well justified."