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BY Anne-Marie Chalmers, MD Jun 19, 2014

Do Cholesterol-Lowering Medications (Statins) Increase the Risk of Developing Breast Cancer?

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Physician pointing out cholesterol in bloodstream Last week, Bo handed me a new study on an issue close to my heart – breast cancer and its relationship to omega-3 and statin use. This study, he said, was a must-read. And indeed, the article was so interesting that Bo and I had all the women in the office reading it by the end of the day.

The study, conducted by a French team in Grenoble, raised several interesting questions about statin use. For one, it reexamined the little-discussed issue of whether taking statins might be linked with an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Several biological reasons might explain this phenomenon. First of all, statins decrease the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, which is problematic since investigators believe an increased ratio has a protective breast cancer benefit. In addition, the authors list several other possibly cancer-promoting side effects of statin use, including the drug’s ability to decrease anti-tumor defenses and contribute to mitochondrial dysfunction.

Even more interesting, the authors discussed how pharmaceutical companies handled the problematic knowledge that statins could possibly increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. After a 1996 double-blind trial revealed that the statin group experienced a 10 fold increase in breast cancer compared to the placebo group, statin investigators started excluding high-risk women from follow-up research. In other cases, investigators would terminate the studies before a breast cancer risk could be detected or would simply fail to report breast cancer data.

Most individuals can lower cholesterol levels and reduce their risk of breast cancer by improving diet and lifestyle – and there are no side effects to going this natural route.

I am not trying to suggest that statins cause breast cancer. There’s not enough information to jump to that kind of conclusion, and medicine is never black and white. There are times when using a statin can be life saving tool!

Gluten-free Omega Cookies
Eating a well balanced diet that includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 is the most effective way to prevent health issues, like heart disease and breast cancer.

But as the authors suggest and as I always emphasized in my medical practice, we have to look at improving diet first and foremost – before we rush to write out a prescription. This statin discussion serves as an important reminder. Most individuals can lower cholesterol levels and reduce their risk of breast cancer by improving diet and lifestyle – and there are no side effects to going this natural route.

Of course, people say that making significant lifestyle changes is harder than taking a pill every day. I agree. I would like to meditate every morning. But many days, the stress gets the better of me, even though I know meditating would make me feel better.

If we really want to improve our overall health, however, we have to start trying. And as physicians, Bo and I have at least tried to make it easier for people to eat nutritious meals and amp up their omega-3 levels. As we say here at Omega3 Innovations, you can improve your diet by eating a cookie. Or having a chocolate truffle (or four). Or by adding three teaspoons of Omega Cure to your yoghurt in the morning. These are just some of the steps you can take to improve your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, which should in turn reduce your risk of both heart disease and breast cancer. To see other ways to lower LDL levels, read this Mayo Clinic article on the Top 5 Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Cholesterol.

As we read more research studies, we continue to see that the natural way – the full-spectrum way, the fresh way – is the best method of improving our health and creating lasting, positive change. As long as we have that option, let’s take it first.

1. Lorgeril, Michel de. “Do Statins Increase and Mediterranean Diet Decrease the Risk of Breast Cancer?” BMC Medicine 12 (2014). BMC Medicine. BioMed Central Ltd, 5 June 2014.

2. Zheng JS, Hu XJ, Zhao YM, Yang J, Li D. “Intake of Fish and Marine N-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Risk of Breast Cancer: Meta-Analysis of Data from 21 Independent Prospective Cohort Studies.” BMJ (2013). BMJ Publishing Group Ltd, 27 June 2013

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