A large case-control study conducted by researchers from the Houston VA Medical Center and Baylor College of Medicine suggests that statins can be used to reduce the risk for developing Barrett’s esophagus. This new use of statins, which are commonly used for lowering cholesterol, was described in an article online ahead of print in the journal Gastroenterology by senior study author Hashem B. El-Serag, MD, MPH.
“Patients who received statins had a 43 percent reduction in the odds of having Barrett’s esophagus compared to non-users,” said Dr. El-Serag in a news release. “This is the first study to find a significantly lower risk of Barrett’s esophagus with statin use, independent of other known risk factors. Further studies are needed to examine this association.”
Conclusions were drawn from 303 Barrett’s esophagus patients and 909 control participants at the Michael E. DeBakey Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Houston. Analysis of electronic pharmacy records from a ten-year period helped determine medication use. Statin users slashed their odds ratio of developing Barrett’s esophagus to 0.57 (a 43% reduction in risk). Patients who were both obese (body mass greater than or equal to 30) and used statins had an even lower risk of disease–their odds ratio was further reduced to 0.26 (a 74% reduction in risk).
Statin use for three or more years led to the highest reduction in risk, and the findings were specific to statin use. No other lipid-lowering medications were associated with reducing the risk of Barrett’s esophagus. Patients with frequent gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms showed a 59% reduction in risk.
Dr. El-Serag’s team was interested in the association between statins and Barrett’s esophagus due to the association between statin use and reduced risk for esophageal adenocarcinoma. Barrett’s esophagus is the only known precancerous lesion for esophageal cancer and increases the risk of cancer by 10- to 55-fold compared to the general population.
One to two percent of the population is affected by Barrett’s esophagus. Since the study was conducted at one location in a group of patients who were largely older men, the results may not describe the general population of Barrett’s esophagus patients.