Statins may disguise prostate cancer

Statins reduce PSA levels and could lead to prostate cancer cases going undiagnosed, US researchers have warned.

Researchers from Duke University School of Medicine followed 1,214 men prescribed statins for a year. They found that PSA levels fell by 4.1 per cent on average. The reduction was most pronounced - 17.4 per cent - among those with PSA levels high enough to make them candidates for prostate biopsy. This could complicate cancer detection, the researchers warn.

About a third of men with PSA levels above the threshold at which a biopsy would be considered were brought below that level following treatment.

'With lower PSA levels, physicians may be less likely to perceive patients to be at risk of prostate cancer and thus less likely to recommend a prostate biopsy, potentially leading to diagnosis at later stages,' the researchers said.

Colchester GP Dr Laurel Spooner, who has an interest in men's health, said that, although more needed to be known about the effect of statins on PSA, it was important to be aware that a link exists. 'If a patient is on a statin, GPs may have to lower the threshold at which they sit up and take notice,' she said.

J Natl Cancer Inst 2008; 100: 1,511-18

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