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High cholesterol increases breast cancer risk by 164 percent

Model Arielle Pytka (L) and designer Sacha Pytka attend the Calavera x Kim Saigh x Keep A Breast 'Bikinis, Boobies And Beer' tattoo print swimwear collection launch for Breast Cancer Awareness at Nouvelle Vague on June 3, 2014, in Venice, California.
Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen

The largest long-term study of any association between cholesterol levels and the incidence of breast cancer has found significant evidence that high cholesterol increases a woman’s risk for breast cancer. Dr. Rahul Potluri from the Algorithm for Comorbidities, Associations, Length of stay and Mortality (ACALM) Study Unit at Aston University in Birmingham, England and colleagues presented the results at the July 4, 2014, session of the Frontiers in CardioVascular Biology (FCVB) conference in Barcelona, Spain. The simplistic answer to reducing the rates of breast cancer may be the use of statin drugs to lower cholesterol levels.

The researchers began their discovery in mouse models where they found a direct link between breast cancer and obesity. The scientists surmised that the connection between breast cancer and obesity could be cholesterol. The results show an association that between cholesterol levels and breast cancer does exits. The researchers cannot show that high cholesterol levels cause breast cancer.

The study analyzed the connection between cholesterol levels and breast cancer in over one million women in the United Kingdom. The study began in 2000 and ended in 2013. Forty percent of the women that had high cholesterol had breast cancer. Breast cancer developed in 2.3 percent of the women that had high cholesterol during the study. The number of women that had high cholesterol or developed high cholesterol in the study period was 3.5 percent. High cholesterol increased the risk of breast cancer by 1.64 times.

The researchers argue that the use of statins to control high cholesterol levels could be an effective and simple means of preventing breast cancer. Statins are relatively free from side effects and the cost is minimal compared to treatment of breast cancer. The researchers concede that a direct proof that high cholesterol causes breast cancer may take as long as 15 years in research that is planned.