News - December 15, 2011

High cholesterol linked to prostate cancer

High blood levels of cholesterol may go together with a raised chance of aggressive prostate cancer. This finding backs up earlier research that showed a similar link.

Dieuwertje Kok, researcher at Human Nutrition, researched this hypothesis using data from a large number of men. The results appeared at the beginning of December in the journal Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases.

The data came from the Nijmegen Biomedical Study, for which almost 22,000 Dutch people were asked to fill in a questionnaire and to give blood for cholesterol measurement. In total, this source provided data on 2118 men without prostate cancer who were not on cholesterol lowering medication. In the subsequent six to seven years, 43 of them went down with prostate cancer, it was learned from cancer statistics.
Using these data, Kok showed that raised levels of overall cholesterol and of LDL  ('bad') cholesterol are associated with prostate cancer. There was no link between a higher level of HDL ('good') cholesterol or of triglycerides. Even when you take into account other factors such as diabetes, old age and BMI, the link still holds. Data on family history, social class and economic status were not available.

A second analysis distinguished between aggressive tumours, of which there were 22, and less aggressive ones (15). A strong link emerged between total and LDL cholesterol and the aggressive cancers. This link was not there for the less aggressive tumours. Kok is cautious about drawing conclusions: 'We already had relatively few people and then we divide the group further in two.' This makes it possible to find strong effects, but with such numbers there can be an element of coincidence.