Lowering cholesterol with statin drugs could help prevent breast cancer, new research has claimed.
A study of more than 600,000 British women found breast cancer risk was almost doubled in those with abnormally high levels of blood fats.
The research is still at an early stage and the findings do not prove that cholesterol helps trigger breast cancer.
But if future work demonstrates a causal link it opens up the possibility of using cheap cholesterol-lowering statins to reduce women’s risk of the disease.
Cardiologist Rahul Potluri, from Aston University, said: “We found that women with high cholesterol had a significantly greater chance of developing breast cancer.
“If the connection between high cholesterol and breast cancer is validated, the next step would be to see if lowering cholesterol with statins can reduce the risk of developing cancer.”
A total of 664,159 women from across the UK took part in the study.
Almost 23,000 had abnormally high levels of lipid fats in their blood.
Some 530 women with the condition were among the 9,312 who developed breast cancer.
Statistical analysis showed they were 1.64 times more likely to have the disease than women without excess cholesterol.
Previous research has shown a clear association between obesity and breast cancer in post-menopausal women.
Dr Potluri, who presented his findings at meeting of the European Society of Cardiology in Barcelona, said there were limitations with the study.
But he added: “That said, the findings are exciting and further research in this field may have a big impact on patients several years down the line.
“Statins are cheap, widely available and relatively safe.
“We are potentially heading towards a clinical trial in 10 to 15 years to test the effect of statins on the incidence of breast cancer.
“If such a trial is successful, statins may have a role in the prevention of breast cancer, especially in high risk groups, such as women with high cholesterol.”
Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of the Breast Cancer Campaign charity, said the results were interesting.
She added: “We do know that being overweight, particularly after menopause, can increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.
“We would encourage women to maintain a healthy weight and to discuss any concerns, such as their breast cancer risk, weight or cholesterol levels with their GP.”