Cholesterol and Cancer: How to Lower Your Risks

Lowering the levels of fat in your bloodstream may also lower your risk of developing cancer.

Men who take prescription statins to keep their cholesterol levels within normal range (that's a total cholesterol level below 200 mg/dL, LDL cholesterol below 100 mg/dL and HDL cholesterol that's 60 mg/DL or higher) not only lower their risk of heart disease but also may lower their risk of potentially deadly prostate cancers. This is a significant finding in the fight against the most common cancer to occur in American men.


Results published from a collaborative study done at Johns Hopkins University showed evidence that men who maintained total cholesterol levels of 200 mg/dL or less had a nearly 60 percent lower risk of developing high-grade prostate cancers. Although, it is important to note that their cholesterol levels didn't appear to have any effect on prostate cancers that were not on the high-grade end of the scale -- high-grade prostate tumors are the most deadly as they grow and spread rapidly.

It's not only prostate cancers that healthy cholesterol levels might ward off. Also, according to two papers published in the November 3, 2009, edition of "Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention," a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, findings from the 18-year-long Alpha-Tocopheral, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study suggest that HDL ("good" cholesterol) may protect us against all cancers: Higher levels of HDL cholesterol were associated with a 14 percent decreased risk of cancer. In an accompanying report from the National Cancer Institute, men with cholesterol lower than 200 mg/dL had a 15 percent decrease in the number of overall cancer instances.

While more investigation and analysis is needed, researchers theorize that cholesterol may have an effect on how cancer cells survive, by disrupting pathways that deliver critical information such as cell division to cells in the body. Cell membranes contain cholesterol, and without the right levels of it, communication breaks down and disease develops.

While low cholesterol levels are the goal for us all, a study published in the July 31, 2007, issue of the "Journal of the American College of Cardiology" (JACC) suggests very low levels of LDL ("bad" cholesterol) and prescription statins may be linked to an increased risk of cancer. Those findings are still inconclusive, but the results of the 2009 Alpha-Tocopheral, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study suggest that low total cholesterol levels are themselves not a cause of cancer, but rather the result of an underlying cancer.

For now, keep cholesterol levels in a normal range -- whether through prescription medication, diet, exercise or a combination of all -- and you just might keep one step ahead of cancer.