Background: Inhibitors of HMG-CoA reductase (“statins”) are effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Preclinical data from rodents suggested that they may increase the incidence of some cancers, including lymphoma. However, monitoring of randomized trials in humans have generally found decreased cancer risks, and these findings have been supported by a growing number of observational studies, including three recent reports of a protective association in NHL. The suggested anti-carcinogenic mechanisms for statins include their impact on inflammatory (including a shift from a Th1 to Th2 profile) and angiogenesis pathways, as well as the induction of apoptosis by modulation of signaling pathways, all of which are of biologic relevance in NHL.

Methods: We evaluated the history of statin use and risk of NHL in a clinic-based study of 243 newly diagnosed NHL cases and 499 frequency matched controls enrolled at the Mayo Clinic from 2002-2005. Risk factor data were collected using self-administered questionnaires, and included history of use of cholesterol lowering drugs two or more years before diagnosis (for cases) or enrollment (for controls); specific drug names were not available. Unconditional logistic regression was used to estimate the odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI), adjusting for age, gender, and residence. NHL subtypes were centrally reviewed, and subtype-specific risks were estimated using polychotomous logistic regression.

Results. The mean age at diagnosis was 59.5 years for cases and 55% were men; among controls, the mean age at enrollment was 61.8 years and 54% were men. Twenty-one percent of the cases reported ever using statins compared to 30% of the controls, supporting a lower risk of NHL for ever users (OR=0.69; 95% CI 0.47–1.00). The lowest risk was seen for the longest users; i.e., compared to never users, person who had 10 or more years of use had the greatest reduction in risk (OR=0.52; 95% CI 0.24–1.10). A history of high cholesterol was also inversely associated with risk of NHL (OR=0.72; 95% CI 0.55–0.93). However, the association for the type of treatment for cholesterol lowering varied. Those who were medically treated had inverse association with risk of NHL (OR=0.63; 95% CI 0.46–0.86), while the no treatment and dietary change only groups were found to have no association with risk. The reduction in NHL risk with medical treatment was specific to statin use, as the use of other cholesterol lowering drugs was not associated with risk (OR=1.13; 95% CI 0.50–2.57). These results were not confounded by education, family history of NHL, body mass index, cigarette smoking or alcohol use. In subtype analysis, the inverse association was seen for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (OR=0.27; 95% CI 0.08–0.90), but not for CLL/SLL or follicular NHL.

Conclusions. Statin use was associated with a lower risk of developing NHL, particular diffuse large B-Cell lymphoma.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.