Resources for Patients and their Families

Low LDL Cholesterol Linked to Cancer Risk

Kristen Griffin brings a fresh perspective to news and blog content for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

Kristen Griffin

March 27, 2012

Chicago, Illinois - According to new research presented at the American College of Cardiology's 61st annual Scientific Session, there appears to be a link between naturally occurring low LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and an increased risk of later developing cancer.

Though there have been studies looking at the relationship between people taking medications to lower LDL cholesterol and cancer, this new report specifically looks at people without a history of statin use. Often referred to as “bad” cholesterol, lowering LDL levels is associated with a reduction in heart disease and improved cardiovascular health.

“There has been some debate as to whether or not medications used to lower cholesterol may contribute to cancer, but the evidence so far tells us that the drugs themselves do not increase the risk of cancer,” said Dr. Paul Michael Lavigne, resident at Tufts Medical Center, in a press release from the American College of Cardiology.

As the lead researcher on the study, Dr. Lavigne stressed that for people with low LDL cholesterol does not necessarily mean they are going to develop cancer, or those currently taking statins should continue to do so.

The study points to a “mechanism” in the body that links low LDL cholesterol and a higher risk of cancer. This mechanism is what the research team concludes warrants further examination.

By observing 201 people with cancer and 402 people without cancer, the research team discovered that those with cancer had, on average, 19 years of low LDL cholesterol levels before their cancer diagnosis.

Maintaining a healthy LDL level is paramount to preventing heart disease, one of the nation's top killers. Besides medications, eating a healthy diet, rich with minerals, antioxidants and vitamins can lower LDL levels.

Further, eliminating exposure to environmental toxins have also shown promise to lower LDLs as well as prevent certain cancers, such as mesothelioma, a deadly cancer linked to asbestos exposure.

Though the science is in its infancy, the preliminary results of the study demonstrate how little is known about this “bad” cholesterol. Additionally, the study did not explain which type of cancers found.

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