A new study presented this week at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Barcelona showed that women with high cholesterol showed lower rates of breast cancer when compared to women who had decreased cholesterol levels, according to Time magazine.

Researchers believe that drugs aimed at lowering cholesterol levels called statins may play a role in preventing breast cancer. However, it’s important to note that prior studies have found no clear link between cholesterol levels, statins, and breast cancer risk.

There may be differences, though, in terms of the type of cancer linked with statins and cholesterol. In this study, more than 16,000 women with high cholesterol were followed and compared with the same number of women with healthy cholesterol levels.

The women in the study were all above 40 years of age and none had a history of breast cancer. The researchers found that, over 14 years of the study, 204 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.

The research shows that women with high cholesterol had a 33 percent decrease in breast cancer risk when compared to women who have healthy cholesterol levels. Among the women with high cholesterol levels who were diagnosed with breast cancer had a 40 percent lower likelihood of death during the 14 years of the study.

The scientists don’t have direct proof but assume that the statins these women were taking to lower their cholesterol levels decreased their breast cancer risk. One of the properties of statins include lowering inflammation – a major part of both cardiovascular disease and cancer.

“Building on previous research by us and other groups, including animal studies in which statins reduced the risk of breast cancer, this gives a strong indication that statins produce this protective effect in breast cancer,” said Paul Carter, MD, lead author of this study and researcher at the ACALM Study Unit.

Anti-inflammatory drugs could play an important role in preventing cancer. This study holds some of the more conclusive research data to prove the link between breast cancer and cholesterol levels or statins.

The researchers are planning to continue studying this link. In particular, the scientists are looking to design a clinical trial showing the impact of statins in patients with breast cancer.

For now, women at risk of breast cancer are not advised to take statins to prevent the disease. However, this  may change as more research comes forward.

“Patients with breast cancer who have high cholesterol, people at high risk of cardiovascular disease, and those with established cardiovascular disease should be given statins according to current guidelines,” Dr. Paul Carter said in a press release.

“I don’t think at the moment we can give statins to prevent or reduce mortality from breast cancer per se. But a positive result in a clinical trial could change this and it is an exciting and rapidly progressing field.”

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