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Researchers have discovered that statins may work to slow prostate growth in men with elevated prostate-specific antigen levels, according to findings presented at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association.

The study by researchers at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, adds new insight into the effects of cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins on the prostate. Scientists found the men who took statins experienced diminished prostatic growth; however, the effect was relatively small and tapered off after approximately 2 years.

Lead author Roberto Muller, MD, a urology fellow at Duke, notes that prostate enlargement (most commonly diagnosed as benign prostate hyperplasia) will become a more significant problem as the population ages in this country. Dr. Muller and his colleagues analyzed data from an unrelated trial testing whether the drug dutasteride could help to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. They reviewed information on more than 6000 men, 1032 of whom took statins.

Although the men receiving statins tended to be older and were expected to have larger prostates, the sizes were actually similar between statin users and nonusers at the start of the study, suggesting that statins might affect prostate growth. The changes were then compared 2 years after the start of the trial, and men who took a statin drug had lower prostate growth, regardless of whether they received dutasteride or a placebo. The growth was on average 5% less in men who took a statin and dutasteride pill than in men who took only dutasteride. For men taking a statin and a placebo, prostate growth was 3.9% less than men taking only a placebo. After 2 years, however, the reductions did not continue.

Dr. Muller says researchers do not yet understand the cause of these findings, although some have suggested that statins may be antiinflammatories and that inflammation could be linked to prostate growth. In addition, diet and exercise may not only affect cholesterol but also prostate health, he says, adding that these issues will require further study.