Statin drugs have been the treatment of choice for some time for lowering cholesterol in individuals with hyperlipidemia, and now studies are showing it may also help reduce the risk of esophageal cancer.
A study conducted at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., suggests that patients suffering from Barrett's esophagus, a complication of gastrointestinal reflux disease, are at a higher risk of developing adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. Although squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus is another form of esophageal cancer traditionally associated with excessive alcohol and tobacco use, adenocarcinoma of the esophagus is typically caused by Barrett's esophagus.
Approximately 16,000 people are diagnosed with esophageal cancer annually; 60 percent of these cases are found to be adenocarcinoma. Unfortunately, adenocarcinoma of the esophagus is on the rise in the US and tends to occur more in men than women and among those who are obese with a smoking history. In addition, the five-year survival rate for adenocarcinoma of the esophagus is low -- only one patient in five will make the five-year mark. Prevention is essential, and minimizing the risk factors associated with esophageal cancer is a good place to start.
Siddharth Singh, MBBS, a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist and study author, utilized data from more than 1.1 million patients, 9,285 of whom had esophageal cancer. The study showed that statins lowered cancer risk by nearly a third, and the longer the patient was on statin medications, the greater the benefit.
"These results are supporting and encouraging, but more research is needed before we recommend that patients at risk of esophageal cancer take statins," Singh said in a Mayo Clinic press release.
In addition to statin use, researchers took a look at the protective benefit of aspirin in reducing the risk of esophageal cancer. Patients with a diagnosis of Barrett's esophagus taking both a statin drug and aspirin reduced their risk of esophageal cancer by as much as 72 percent.
The results of this study will help to support clinical trials utilizing statin drugs for individuals who are at high risk of developing esophageal cancer.
As I read this report, I thought of the benefit this may have on other gastrointestinal cancers, as well such as stomach and liver cancer.
Are you treating many patients with esophageal cancer? If so, what has been their outcome?