Elevated cholesterol levels and risk for high-grade prostate cancer


A new report from a Scottish research team offers evidence that high plasma cholesterol levels are associated with an increased risk for a diagnosis of high-grade prostate cancer.

Shafique et al. have used data from 12,926 men who were initially enrolled in the Midspan studies between 1970 and 1976 and followed through December 31, 2007. The Midspan studies are a group of prospective epidemiological studies initiated in selected areas of Scotland in the late 1960s.

The goal of this particular study was to assess any association between baseline plasma cholesterol and the incidence of Gleason grade-specific prostate cancer. In conducting this assessment, the authors excluded cancers detected within 5 years of the patients’ baseline cholesterol assay.

The core results of this analysis are as follows:

  • 650/12,926 men (5.0 percent) developed prostate cancer over a perkiod of 37 years’ follow-up (excluding men diagnosed with prostate cancer within 5 years of their baseline cholesterol assay).
  • Baseline plasma cholesterol levels were positively associated with risk for high-grade (Gleason score ≥ 8) prostate cancer (n = 119).
  • The association was significant after adjustment for body mass index, smoking and socioeconomic status.

Shafique et al. conclude that men with elevated plasma cholesterol levels are at greater than average risk of developing high-grade prostate cancer (but not at greater overall risk of prostate cancer). They go on to point out that, “Interventions to minimise metabolic risk factors may have a role in reducing incidence of aggressive prostate cancer.” (In other words, the use of cholesterol lowering agents such as statins may reduce men’s risk for high-grade prostate cancer.)

4 Responses

  1. What a useless report. Where are the data?

  2. Dear John:

    If you want to study all of the data, click on “Shafique et al.” in the commentary above and it will take you to the full text of the article with all the relevant data.

  3. I can give you “some” data, not statistically significant because I am only one data point. My cholesterol level rose higher and higher as I approached 62 until it hit a high of 295 and my weight hit 212 for a frame of 5 feet 10 inches. After I retired (engineering desk job), my weight dropped to 180 and my cholesterol level to 205; triglycerides were the bad guys in my case as HDL was high and LDL was withing limits soon afterwards. But by then my PSA was at 6.1 and biopsies showed cancer. Fats in our diet are certainly a factor, but, what role is it playing in prostate cancer? Primary or secondary effect? Where are the studies? I would like to plot on a graph every known cholesterol level of edvery prostate cancer patient at the time they were diagnosed.

  4. Yery interesting — albeit anecdotal; it is certainly true in my case because I have had high cholesterol levels since I started measuring them in my early 30s!

    A missing variable might be that healthy Scottish diet — deep fried Milky Ways, haggis, sausage and chips, English breakfasts; however, much porridge you eat, I doubt it can compensate!

    One serious note … If you look at the Shafique study, do not be confused … cholesterol levels are measured the European way (in mmol/l) as opposed to in US units (mg/dl). You will see a reference to the highest association found in the second highest cholesterol quintile between 6.1 and 6.9 mmol/l; this correlates to approx. 235 to 270 mg/dl in US units. (I am fortunate to own a precious cholesterol conversion table!)

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