'Good' Cholesterol May Cut Colon Cancer Risk 03/08/11
TUESDAY, March 8 (HealthDay News) -- High levels of "good"
cholesterol may reduce the risk of colon cancer, a new study
If other studies confirm this finding, people with low levels of
high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol should "be advised to
change their lifestyle to reduce their risk of colon cancer," said
lead researcher Dr. Bas Bueno-de-Mesquita, from the department of
gastroenterology and hepatology at the National Institute for
Public Health and the Environment in Bilthoven, the
Cutting "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and increasing "good" (HDL)
cholesterol already are known to reduce the risk for heart disease,
and this new study provides another reason to pay attention to your
blood cholesterol numbers.
For the study, published online March 7 in
Gut, the researchers compared 1,238 people with colorectal cancer to 1,238 healthy people. Of those with cancer, 779 had colon cancer and 459 had rectal cancer.
The researchers reviewed the results of blood samples and
dietary-lifestyle questionnaires provided by participants enrolled
in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition
study, a long-term look at the effect of diet on cancer in 10
The investigators found that those with the highest levels of
HDL cholesterol and another blood fat called apolipoprotein A
(apoA) had the least chance of developing colon cancer, but no
impact was seen on rectal cancer.
"This association is independent of some other markers in the blood that are related to the development of cancer," Bueno-de-Mesquita said. Those markers include inflammation, insulin resistance and oxygen free radicals.
For each 16.6 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) increase in HDL
and 32 mg/dL increase in apoA, the risk of colon cancer was cut by
22 percent and 18 percent, respectively, Bueno-de-Mesquita's team
But for a subset of patients followed for more than two years,
only high HDL levels were linked with a lower risk of colon
The researchers speculate that HDL's anti-inflammatory
properties may explain the finding, but say further research is
needed to tease out the specific cause. They also acknowledged that
the short follow-up period -- just 3.8 years -- is a limitation to
Depending on the results of such investigations, HDL levels may
someday be a useful tool in moderating a patient's colon cancer
risk, the authors stated.
"Currently, the best recommendation to reduce one's risk [of colon cancer] is to stop smoking, increase physical activity, reduce obesity and abdominal fatness and limit intakes of alcohol and red and processed meats," Bueno-de-Mesquita said.
Commenting on the study, Eric Jacobs, strategic director of
pharmacoepidemiology at the American Cancer Society, said that
"this important study is well designed and the largest ever study
of HDL cholesterol and colon cancer risk."
But, he noted, "the link between HDL and colon cancer needs to
be confirmed in other studies and could reflect the effect of
biological factors correlated with HDL, rather than an effect of
In addition, Jacobs stated, "No matter what the exact biology,
we do know that getting more exercise is a good way to both improve
HDL levels and lower risk of several cancers, including colon
For more information on colon cancer, visit the
American Cancer Society.
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