Prostate Cancer: Can Lowering Cholesterol Slow the Spread?
Many of us know that lowering cholesterol is a good move for improving your heart health. But did you know that lowering cholesterol might also stop or slow the spread of prostate cancer?
A new study by a University of Queensland researcher, in collaboration with Ochsner Health, showed just that. Prostate cancer cells send out a certain protein that prepares other parts of the body for the cancer to spread. But lab tests showed that lowering cholesterol can help control the release of those protein cells and thereby slow down the spread of cancer.
When cancer is confined to the prostate, the outlook for patients is good. But when the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, called metastasis, the outlook is much less positive for patients.
Survival rates for men with stage 4 prostate cancer are less than 40% for five years or more. Prostate cancer can turn metastatic several years after a patient’s treatment, even if the patient is now seemingly disease-free.
Where is the prostate and how does prostate cancer start?
Prostate cancer occurs when cells in the prostate gland start to rapidly multiply. The job of the prostate is to make some of the fluid that semen is composed of. The prostate is found below the bladder and in front of the rectum. Seminal vesicles, a pair of two glands, make most of the fluid for semen. The urethra goes through the center of the prostate and carries urine and semen out the body through the penis.
Scientists are now developing a blood test to detect those protein cells that help prostate cancer spread. Those tests can help doctors know when to prescribe drugs that lower cholesterol to try to prevent the cancer from spreading and could also assist doctors with determining a patient’s treatment plan. According to the National Cancer Institute, statins, a drug that helps lower cholesterol, have the potential to prevent cancer. They may even help control tumor growth and metastasis.
In the recent study, Dr. Michelle Hill, associate professor and former University of Queensland researcher and the head of QIMR Berghofer’s Precision and Systems Biomedicine Laboratory in Brisbane, Australia, said a pilot study showed that samples from eight prostate cancer patients were 100 percent accurate in predicting which patients would experience the cancer spreading throughout their body.
How do I lower my cholesterol?
- Be sure to include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats into your diet.
- If you are overweight, lose weight, especially people with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome includes risk factors such as high triglyceride levels and low HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
- Exercise. There are so many benefits to regular physical activity, including lowering cholesterol levels. Aim for getting 30 minutes in daily.
- Control stress. Chronic stress can sometimes raise LDL (bad cholesterol) and lower HDL (good cholesterol).
- Stop smoking. HDL helps to remove LDL cholesterol from arteries. Quitting smoking can increase your HDL levels, which can help to lower LDL levels.
- Take medicines if prescribed by your doctor. When lifestyle changes aren’t enough, your doctor may prescribe medicines to lower your cholesterol. And while there are several companies that tout cholesterol lowering supplements such as red yeast rice, flaxseed and garlic, there isn’t enough conclusive evidence yet that these products are effective in lowering cholesterol levels. In addition, supplements can have negative interactions with other drugs and may cause side effects. Always talk to your doctor first before taking any medicines or supplements.
Learn more about cancer screenings at Ochsner.