Statins show promise for preventing incontinence and kidney damage in older men
15:10 GMT, 21 May 2012
An enlarged prostate can cause a frequent need to urinate and
difficulty emptying the bladder fully
Statins usually used to treat high cholesterol could also help older men by slowing prostate growth, researchers say.
Statins have been hailed as a wonder drug since studies showed that they could lower the risk of heart attack and also improve the health of heart transplant patients.
Now a meeting of the American Urological Association has been told of the beneficial effect of statins on patients with enlarged prostates.
Up to 90 per cent of men over 70 have problems with an enlarged prostate which can cause urinary problems such as incontinence and kidney damage.
Dr Roberto Muller, from Duke University, said: 'Given that prostate enlargement is an important health problem in the United States and elsewhere, and will be a larger problem as the population ages, it's important to understand and treat its symptoms.'
Dr Muller and his team studied data gathered for an unrelated trial intended to test a cancer drug. They narrowed it down to 6,000 people, 1,032 of whom took statins.
Men on statins tended to be older than non-users, and were expected to have greater prostate sizes. But prostate sizes were actually similar between statin users and non-users at the start of the study. That finding provided the first suggestion that statins might affect prostate growth.
When changes were compared two years after the start of the trial, men in the study who took a statin drug had 3.9 per cent less prostate growth.
Those reductions, however, did not persist after two years.
Dr Muller said: 'We don't yet understand the mechanisms that might be causing this.
'Some have suggested that statins may have anti-inflammatory properties, and inflammation has been linked to prostate growth, but this needs further study.
'Prostate enlargement was once considered an inexorable consequence of aging and genetics, but there is growing awareness that prostate growth can be influenced by modifiable risk factors.
'In this context, the role of blood cholesterol levels and cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins warrants further study.'
Symptoms of an enlarged prostate can be mild to severe. Doctors currently advise making lifestyle changes such as stop drinking liquids an hour before bed, limiting alcohol and caffeine intake and exercising regularly.
Those with moderate to severe symptoms are often prescribed the medication finasteride or dutasteride, which block the effects of a hormone called DHT on the prostate gland. However, side-effects include impotence.