April 26 (HealthDay News) --Several new studies suggest statins help prevent prostate cancer and reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction.
"At this point in time, there seems to be mounting evidence that there may be a future role for statins in prostate cancer treatment or prostate cancer prevention," said Dr. Lionel L. Banez, from the Division of Urologic Surgery and Duke Prostate Center at Duke University Medical Center and lead author of one study. "There will definitely be more men taking statins for cardiovascular reasons, and this is a great opportunity for us to see how many of these men develop prostate cancer and whether these prostate cancers are aggressive."
All the reports were to be presented Sunday at the American Urological Association's annual meeting, in Chicago.
One study found that men who were taking statins before undergoing surgical removal of their prostate had a lower risk of having the cancer return. "The use of statins at the time of surgery was associated with a 30 percent reduction in the risk of recurrence of prostate cancer," said lead researcher Dr. Robert J. Hamilton, a urology resident at the University of Toronto Medical Center in Ontario, Canada.
Hamilton thinks that the anti-inflammatory properties of statins may explain the finding. However, it might also be the ability of these drugs to lower cholesterol that has an effect on cancer cells, he said.
Although these results are promising, Hamilton is cautious about recommending that men should take statins to reduce the risk of recurrent prostate cancer. "At this point, we cannot with confidence say that that's true," he stressed.
There are also several unanswered questions, including the optimal dose, the length of time one needs to be taking statins to achieve a benefit, and whether starting statin therapy after surgery would have the same effect.
"Although the results of these studies are exciting, they need to be confirmed," he said.
Another study focused on inflammation inside prostate cancer tumors. "We looked at the association between statin use and prostate tumor inflammation," Banez said.
"We found that men who were using statins prior to surgery had a significantly lower risk for inflammation within their prostate tumor," Banez said.
In fact, men taking statins had a 72 percent reduction in the risk for inflammation of the prostate tumor. The researchers also found that obesity appears to be associated with increased inflammation and more aggressive prostate cancer.
In a third report, researchers led by Dr. Stacy Loeb, from Johns Hopkins University, found statins may help in reducing the aggressiveness of prostate cancer. "Our results suggest that the use of statins may be associated with more favorable pathological features at radical prostatectomy," the researchers said in a statement.
In a fourth report, researchers led by Dr. Rodney H. Breau from the Mayo Clinic found that statins were associated with a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. Among 75 men taking statins who had biopsies, 30 tested positive for prostate cancer, the researchers found.
"In recent years, it has been suggested that statin medications may prevent development of cancer. However, until now, there has been limited evidence to support this theory," Breau said in a statement. "Our research provides evidence that statin use is associated with a threefold reduced risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer."
There may come a time when people will be taking statins to treat or prevent prostate cancer, Hamilton noted. "If these studies keep rolling in suggesting that there is something there with prostate cancer, then the use of statins could go up," he said.
In a fifth study, Mayo Clinic researchers found that statins and/or with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) resulted in fewer lower urinary tract symptoms related to an enlarged prostate.
The researchers found that statin users were 63 percent less likely to develop lower urinary tract problems and 57 percent less likely to develop an enlarged prostate.
"Statins have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, and previous research suggests inflammation may be associated with benign prostate disease," lead researcher Dr. Jennifer L. St. Sauver said in a statement. "This study suggests that men's urinary health could be improved by taking statin medications."
In another report from Mayo Clinic researchers, older men taking statins over an extended period had a lower risk of developing erectile dysfunction (ED).
Statins were associated with a decreased risk of ED among men older than 60. Moreover, men who took statins for a longer time were less likely to develop ED. For example, men taking statins for nine years or more were 64 percent less likely to develop ED. Men who took statins for less than three years had about the same risk of developing ED as men who did not take statins, the researchers found.
"Protection of vascular health remains an important concomitant of preserving erectile health. Our data suggest that longer use of statins may result in the lowest risk of erectile dysfunction," study author Dr. Ajay Nehra said in a statement.
SOURCES: Robert J. Hamilton, M.D., M.P.H., urology resident, University of Toronto Medical Center, Ontario, Canada; Lionel L. Banez, M.D., Division of Urologic Surgery and Duke Prostate Center, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.; April 26, 2009, presentations, American Urological Association annual meeting, Chicago