Can Statins Cause Skin Cancer?
Statin drugs, used to combat high cholesterol, are a commonly used drug in the United States. As the use of statins continues to rise, so too does the incidence of melanoma and keratinocyte carcinomas (KCs), which include squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Some studies have noted that certain cellular mechanisms that promote altered cholesterol homeostasis have been associated with cancer development, though research on the link between high cholesterol and skin cancers is scarce. However, there have been some studies that have explored the link between statin use and skin cancer.
A recent study continued this line of inquiry and investigated the relation between high cholesterol level, statin use, and risk of melanoma, SCC, and BCC in two large cohorts. The authors examined the data on participants’ cholesterol level, medication use and skin cancer diagnoses from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS). Authors limited their analysis on statin use and risk of skin cancer to those participants with a history of high cholesterol level.
The results showed that a history of high cholesterol level alone was not associated with risk of BCC or SCC in women and men. Statin use among participants with a history of high cholesterol level was not associated with risk of SCC, BCC, or melanoma. However, the study showed that for men, as the length of time of statin use increased so did a trend toward higher risk of BCC. The same trend was not seen in women.
The authors conclude that history of high cholesterol level was not associated with risk of KCs or melanoma, and longer duration of statin use may be associated with higher risk of BCC in men. They note that their study does have limitations, but based on the data, individuals using statins long-term may benefit from counseling on the importance of health screenings.