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Statins reduce risk of cancer in heart transplant patients

Statins prevent cancer and reduce death “from all causes” in heart transplant recipients, a study claims.

The research, announced during the annual meeting of the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology, analysed 255 patients who had undergone heart transplantation at the University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland between 1985 and 2007.

At the eight-year follow-up mark, of those not receiving a statin, 34% developed cancer compared to 13% of the study participants that did receive a statin.

The benefits of receiving a statin appear to continue at the 10-year (39% vs. 18%) and 12-year follow-up (42% vs. 22%).

It is claimed statins reduced the risk of any cancer by 65% during the study period.

The findings are said to be independent of cholesterol levels, which leads the researchers to suggest the statin's benefit was due to its immunomodulatory effects.

Lead author Dr Frank Enseleit, Deputy Director of heart failure and transplantation at University Hospital Zurich, said patients can “safely begin” statin therapy six months after transplantation and they should take the drug for the rest of their lives.

“We have shown that statin therapy prevents cancer in heart transplant recipients and it is known that statins also prevent graft atherosclerosis,” he said.

“We have to conclude that it should be a lifelong therapy in heart transplant recipients.”

Guidelines from the International Society for Heart & Lung Transplantation (ISHLT) currently recommend prescribing a statin to patients after heart transplantation to reduce graft atherosclerosis.