The discovery, from Tufts Medical Center, adds to the growing list of health benefits of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, which medicine believes blocks arteries, and causes heart disease.
It's already known that it protects the brain as we age, and that low levels can escalate problems such as dementia and memory loss.
The Tufts researchers compared 201 cancer patients against 402 healthy people; none of the participants was taking a cholesterol-lowering statin. On four separate occasions during nearly 19 years' observation, the cancer patients consistently had lower LDL levels than the healthy group, and after taking into account other possible factors, the researchers concluded that levels of LDL cholesterol were the one thing that seemed to influence the development of cancer.
(Source: American College of Cardiology 61st annual scientific session, March 25, 2012).