Statins could lower the risk of cancer in hundreds of thousands of Britons living with heart failure, researchers suggest.
The cholesterol-busting pills, which cost as little as 4p a day, drastically cut patients' odds of developing the disease and dying from it.
Researchers analysed data on 87,102 people with heart failure. The condition currently affects 920,000 in the UK.
Participants had an average age of 77 and were followed for up to 15 years.
The cholesterol-busting pills, which cost as little as 4p a day, drastically cut patients' odds of developing the disease and dying from it
Those who took statins for at least 90 consecutive days in the year after they were first diagnosed with the disease were 16 per cent less likely to develop cancer.
Moreover, the team at the University of Hong Kong found protection increased the longer patients took statins.
Those on the tablets for six years or more were 22 per cent less likely to develop cancer and 39 per cent less likely to die from it than those on them for between three months and two years.
Researchers analysed data on 87,102 people with heart failure
Previous research has shown that heart failure patients are at increased risk of developing cancer – possibly because of similar genetic factors or increased inflammation. It is the most common non-cardiac cause of death among such patients.
The study also found that deaths from any cause were 38 per cent lower among statin users compared to non-users.
Lead researcher Dr Kai-Hang Yiu said: 'Heart failure is a growing disease globally and deaths due to other causes unrelated to the heart and blood vessels are of concern.
'Our findings should raise doctors' awareness of the increasing cancer incidence among heart failure patients and encourage them to pay extra attention to non-cardiovascular-related outcomes.
'Moreover, our study highlights the relationship between heart failure and cancer development, and provides important information regarding the possibility of reducing cancer incidence and related deaths by using statins in these patients.
'Randomised trials should be carried out to investigate this further.
'In addition, the findings, combined with previous research showing the strong association between heart failure and cancer, call for potential strategies to reduce the risk of cancer, such as screening for cancer in heart failure patients.'