A retrospective study indicated that persons with inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) who were using statins at the time of diagnosis had better progression-free survival rates than did nonusers.

IBC, a rare disease that accounts for only up to 5% of all invasive breast cancers, develops quickly when malignant cells block lymph vessels in the skin and soft tissue, explains a statement from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Findings from an earlier study conducted in Denmark suggested that the anti-inflammatory effect of cholesterol-lowering statins could reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

Naoto T. Ueno, MD, PhD, executive director of MD Anderson’s Morgan Welch Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Program and Clinic, and colleagues undertook an evaluation of the overall effects of statins on IBC, reviewing the records of 724 patients diagnosed and treated for stage III IBC at MD Anderson between 1995 and 2011.

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Average disease-free survival among the 650 patients with no record of statin use was 1.76 years. Among the 74 patients who had been taking statins at the time of diagnosis, those taking lipophilic (fat-soluble) statins had a mean 2.47 years of disease-free survival, and those with past hydrophilic (water-soluble) statin use had 4.88 years.

Disease-specific survival was 5.1 years among the users of hydrophilic statins, compared with 4.52 years among nonusers. Despite a trend in overall survival among statin users, the overall-survival endpoint did not reach statistical significance.

No data were available regarding how long patients had been taking statins or the reasons for statin use. Statin users may represent a population with better access to health care or a more health-conscious lifestyle, pointed out the researchers.

Nevertheless, “Statins are currently in the market and may have a significant role in the treatment we provide,” noted Ueno in the MD Anderson statement.

The findings were presented at the CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, held December 4-8, 2012, in San Antonio, Texas.