Healthy living

Good cholesterol linked to lower risk of bowel cancer

Good cholesterol linked to lower risk of bowel cancer May dampen inflammation linked to cancer

People with high levels of HDL cholesterol - the good type - may be at lower risk of developing bowel cancer, a study has found.

Cholesterol is transported around the body by two types of lipoproteins - high density lipoproteins (HDL) and low density lipoproteins (LDL).

HDL cholesterol is often referred to as the "good" type because the HDL mops up cholesterol from the and blood returns it back to the liver.

LDL cholesterol is often described as the bad type, as the LDL carries cholesterol from the liver to other parts of the body. High levels in the blood are a risk factor for blood clots, heart disease and stroke.

In this Dutch study, researchers analysed data from more than a half a million people from 10 European countries who were taking part in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study.

Blood samples were taken from 12,000 people who developed bowel or rectal cancer during the study, and were compared with those from healthy individuals of the same age, gender and nationality.

People with the highest levels of HDL cholesterol, and another blood fat, apolipoprotein A (apoA) - a component of HDL cholesterol - had the lowest risk of developing bowel cancer.

Each rise of 16.6 mg/dl of HDL reduced the risk of bowel cancer by 22 per cent, and each rise of 32 mg/dl of apoA reduced it by 18 per cent.

However the HDL and apoA levels made no impact on the risk of rectal cancer.

The scientists then excluded people in the study who had only been tracked for two years, as they may have already been undergoing cancerous changes when they joined the study. When this was done, only the levels of HDL were linked to a reduction in bowel cancer risk.

The authors said that high HDL levels have been linked to higher levels of proteins involved in dampening down inflammation, while high LDL levels have been linked to higher levels of pro-inflammatory proteins which boost cell growth and proliferation, which may partially explain the findings.

The findings are published in the journal Gut.

This article was published on Tue 8 March 2011

Image © JB -

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