Statins 'cut bowel cancer risk by 12%'

Cholesterol-lowering drugs used to prevent heart problems can reduce the risk of bowel cancer by 12%, a study suggested today.

The beneficial effect of statins emerged from an analysis of 22 studies involving more than 2.5 million participants.

"Statin use was associated with a statistically significant reduction in colorectal cancer," said lead research Dr Jewel Samadder, from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in the US.

The most common type of statins, known as lipophilic, had the greatest impact.

Statins block the production of cholesterol in the liver and help prevent the build up of hard deposits on the walls of arteries.

They are normally taken by people with diabetes, at risk of heart attacks or with abnormally high cholesterol levels.

But long-term statin use has been associated with a reduced risk of several cancers, including breast, prostate, lung, pancreas and liver - and now bowel.

"Our findings suggest that randomised controlled trials designed to test the hypothesis that statins reduce the risk of colorectal cancer are warranted," said Dr Samadder.

The findings were presented today at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology in San Antonio, Texas.

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK, affecting around 38,600 people a year.

About 16,260 people in the UK die from the disease each year, though death rates are falling.