`Statins prevent cancer in heart transplant patients`

Bern: Statins prevent cancer and reduce death from all causes in heart transplant recipients, independently of cholesterol levels, says a new study.

Frank Enseleit, deputy director of heart failure and transplantation at University Hospital in Zurich, who led the study, says 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 says. "We have to conclude that it should be a lifelong therapy in heart transplant recipients."

Cancer is the leading cause of death late after heart transplantation. Skin cancer is particularly common, but solid organ cancers including colorectal cancer, prostate cancer and lymphoma also occur.

The increased rate of cancer in heart transplant recipients may be related to the immune suppression of the patient, according to a Zurich statement.

Statins may benefit patients beyond their lipid lowering effects. The current study investigated the impact of statin therapy on the occurrence of cancer and death from all causes in heart transplantation recipients.

The study examined 255 patients who underwent heart transplantation at the University Hospital between 1985 and 2007 and were alive after the first year.

During follow up, cancer was diagnosed in 108 patients (42 percent). Statins reduced the risk of any cancer by 65 percent.

Eight years after transplantation the cumulative incidence of tumours was 34 percent in patients not receiving a statin compared to 13 percent in patients receiving a statin.

The research was presented at the Heart uilure Congress May 19-22 in Belgrade, Serbia.