Head and Neck Cancers Coverage from Every Angle
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Statin Use After Radiotherapy for Head and Neck Cancer Survivors

By: Lauren Harrison, MS
Posted: Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The leading cause of illness and death among cancer survivors is cardiovascular disease, but the use of statins after radiation therapy for head and neck cancers appears to be associated with a decreased risk of suffering a stroke. Negar Mousavi, MD, MHSc, of the McGill University Health Center in Canada, and his colleagues published these data in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

“Our study demonstrated that statin therapy could be favorable even with the competing risks of cancer and cancer-related mortality in patients who received radiation therapy. No other agent is recommended with enough evidence to reduce the risk of vascular events among [patients with] cancer receiving radiation to the head, neck, or chest,” said Dr. Mousavi in an American Heart Association press release.

The researchers conducted a retrospective study of a database from McGill University containing 5,718 cardiac patients with cancer of the thorax, head, or neck who had undergone radiation therapy between 2000 and 2011. Of these patients, 4,166 were statin users, and 1,552 did not use statins. Most of the patients in the study had underlying cardiovascular disease.

The crude event rate was 10.31% for those who did not receive statins and 9.03% for patients taking the drug (hazard ratio = 0.92). The use of statins was associated with a reduction in stroke alone by 32% (hazard ratio = 0.68). Statin use after radiotherapy was found to be associated with a nonsignificant 15% relative risk reduction and a trend toward reducing overall cardiovascular events once researchers adjusted for age, sex, and prior predisposing conditions. The authors did note that prospective studies are necessary to understand the role of statins in larger populations and to establish guidelines for their future use.

Disclosure: The study authors’ disclosure information can be found at ahajournals.org.

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