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    Posted July 4, 2014 by
    Barcelona, Spain

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    High cholesterol raises risk of breast cancer

    Hyperlipidaemia increased the risk of breast cancer by 1.64 times

    Over the past few years, population studies have suggested an association between obesity and breast cancer. A study in May of this year also found that obesity may raise the risk of dying from early stage breast cancer for some women. A mouse study last year concluded that lowering circulating cholesterol or interfering with its metabolism may be used to prevent or treat breast cancer.

    A new study being presented today at the Frontiers in CardioVascular Biology (FCVB) 2014 in Barcelona, Spain. The meeting is organised by the Council on Basic Cardiovascular Science of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) in collaboration with 13 European cardiovascular science societies.

    In this new study Dr. Rahul Potluri, BMedSc,MBCHB,MRCP(UK),MRCPS(Glas),MMedSc(MRe), founder of the ACALM Study Unit and lead author along with colleagues conducted a retrospective analysis of more than 1 million patients across the UK between 2000 and 2013 from the Algorithm for Comorbidities, Associations, Length of stay and Mortality (ACALM) clinical database. There were 664,159 women and of these, 22 938 had hyperlipidaemia and 9 312 had breast cancer. Some 530 women with hyperlipidaemia developed breast cancer.

    Using statistical model researchers examined the association between hyperlipidaemia and breast cancer.

    The researchers found that women who had hyperlipidaemia (high blood cholesterol) had an increased risk of breast cancer by1.64 times (95% confidence interval 1.50-1.79).

    The researchers write “Hypercholesterolemia is a risk factor for estrogen receptor (ER)–positive breast cancers and is associated with a decreased response of tumors to endocrine therapies.”

    Dr Potluri commented “We have a general principle that obesity is linked to breast cancer and a study in mice suggested that this may be because of cholesterol. We decided to investigate whether there was any association between hyperlipidaemia, which is high cholesterol essentially, and breast cancer."

    The research revealed women with high cholesterol had a significantly greater risk of developing breast cancer. Dr. Potiuri points out “This was an observational study so we can't conclude that high cholesterol causes breast cancer but the strength of this association warrants further investigation."

    "A prospective study that monitors the risk of breast cancer in women with and without high cholesterol is needed to confirm what we observed. If the connection between high cholesterol and breast cancer is validated, the next step would be to see if lowering cholesterol with statins can reduce the risk of developing cancer,” added Dr. Potiuri.

    According to Dr. Potiuri "Statins are cheap, widely available and relatively safe. We are potentially heading towards a clinical trial in 10-15 years to test the effect of statins on the incidence of breast cancer. If such a trial is successful, statins may have a role in the prevention of breast cancer especially in high risk groups, such as women with high cholesterol."

    In conclusion Dr. Potirui remarks "While our study was preliminary, our results are promising. We found a significant association between having high cholesterol and developing breast cancer that needs to be explored in more depth. Caution is needed when interpreting our results because while we had a large study population, our analysis was retrospective and observational with inherent limitations. That said, the findings are exciting and further research in this field may have a big impact on patients several years down the line.'

    Reference; 27-Hydroxycholesterol Links Hypercholesterolemia and Breast Cancer Pathophysiology, Science. 2013 Nov 29;342 DOI: 10.1126/science.1241908.
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