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15-01-2012 | Diabetes | Article

Statin use linked to diabetes risk


Free abstract

MedWire News: Statin use may increase the risk for new-onset diabetes in postmenopausal women, shows a US study.

"There is a need for future studies to evaluate both the risks and benefits of statins for people of different ages and genders, with and without heart disease," said lead author Yunsheng Ma (University of Massachusetts, Worcester) in a press statement.

As reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the team evaluated data for 153,840 diabetes-free, postmenopausal women (aged 50-79 years) who participated in the Women's Health Initiative between 1993 and 1998.

The analysis is based on follow-up data through 2005, with statin use captured at baseline and year 3 and new-onset diabetes recorded annually from enrollment.

At study recruitment, 10,830 (7.04%) women were using statins, of whom 30.3% were on simvastatin, 27.3% lovastatin, 22.5% pravastatin, 12.2% fluvastatin, and 7.7% atorvastatin.

The researchers report that a total of 10,242 incident diabetes cases were recorded over the follow-up period.

Multivariate analysis revealed that statin use at baseline was significantly associated with an increased risk for incident diabetes when compared with nonuse, at a hazard ratio (HR) of 1.48.

Similar risk increases were found for use of either high- or low-potency statins, with HRs of 1.45 and 1.48, respectively.

The study also revealed that women with a body mass index (BMI) under 25 were at a significantly greater risk for new-onset diabetes than those with a BMI of 30 or more. The HRs for statin use versus non-use were 1.89, 1.66, and 1.22 in the BMI groups of less than 25.0, 25.0 to 29.9, and more than 30.0, respectively.

"Given no other reports of this incidence pattern in other studies, we can only speculate that differences in phenotype, such as weight distribution, may contribute to this finding," write Ma and team. "Native hormonal changes in menopause permit a redistribution of weight in favor of visceral fat that may be independent of BMI as a risk factor for diabetes," they explain.

The authors say the association between statin use and increased diabetes risk may be a medication class effect.

"Further study by statin type and dose may reveal varying risk levels for new-onset diabetes in this population," they say.

"Given the wide use of statins in the aging population, further studies among women, men, and diverse ethnicities will clarify diabetes risk and risk management to optimize therapy," conclude Ma et al.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Sally Robertson