Medical memo: Cholesterol and prostate cancer

Published: June, 2011

Ask men about their top health worries, and most will put cholesterol and prostate cancer high on the list. That's understandable, since unfavorable cholesterol levels contribute to heart attack and stroke, the first and fourth leading causes of death in America, and prostate cancer takes about 32,000 lives a year. Still, while most men understand the link between cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, few suspect a link between cholesterol and cancer. Research is beginning to change that.

Early worries

Back when scientists were nailing down the relationship between high cholesterol and heart disease, they were also raising concerns that although low cholesterol levels could protect the heart, they might increase the risk of cancer. Indeed, a series of population studies from the 1980s reported a higher incidence of cancer in people with low cholesterol levels. This research also sparked worry about cholesterol-lowering drugs, which was heightened when the first statin was released in 1987.

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