Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Exposure to statins and risk of common cancers: a series of nested case-control studies

Yana Vinogradova*, Carol Coupland and Julia Hippisley-Cox

Author Affiliations

Division of Primary Care, 13th floor, Tower Building, University Park, Nottingham, NG2 7RD, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Cancer 2011, 11:409  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-409

Published: 26 September 2011



Many studies and meta-analyses have investigated the effects of statins on cancer incidence but without showing consistent effects.


A series of nested case-control studies was conducted covering 574 UK general practices within the QResearch database. Cases were patients with primary cancers diagnosed between 1998 and 2008. The associations between statin use and risk of ten site-specific cancers were estimated with conditional logistic regression adjusted for co-morbidities, smoking status, socio-economic status, and use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, cyclo-oxygenase-2 inhibitors and aspirin.


88125 cases and 362254 matched controls were analysed. The adjusted odds ratio for any statin use and cancer at any site were 1.01 (95%CI 0.99 to 1.04). For haematological malignancies there was a significant reduced risk associated with any statin use (odds ratio 0.78, 95%CI 0.71 to 0.86). Prolonged (more than 4 years) use of statins was associated with a significantly increased risk of colorectal cancer (odds ratio 1.23, 95%CI 1.10 to 1.38), bladder cancer (odds ratio 1.29, 95%CI 1.08 to 1.54) and lung cancer (odds ratio 1.18, 95%CI 1.05 to 1.34). There were no significant associations with any other cancers.


In this large population-based case-control study, prolonged use of statins was not associated with an increased risk of cancer at any of the most common sites except for colorectal cancer, bladder cancer and lung cancer, while there was a reduced risk of haematological malignancies.