Lung cancer claims nearly 1.8 million lives across the world every year, with approximately 2.1 million new cases annually. However, a new Korean study has found that the combined use of three common medications can decrease the incidence of lung cancer and the mortality associated with it.

Researchers from the Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine in South Korea discovered that three commonly prescribed drugs—aspirin, statins, and metformin— had a positive association with lung cancer risks and mortality when they were administered together.

"To our knowledge, no study has evaluated aspirin, statins, and metformin use and their combined impact on lung cancer incidence and mortality," said Dr. Dong Wook Shin, lead author of the study in a statement.

Commonly Prescribed and Consumed Drugs

Lungs
Lungs (Representational Picture) Pixabay

All three medications are taken commonly to manage the most globally prevalent health conditions. Statin is used to control cholesterol; metformin is prescribed for the management of diabetes, and millions of people consume aspirin across the world for a variety of reasons.

The researchers aimed to investigate the association of the three drugs with lung cancer risks and death, and used data from the Korean National Health Insurance Services database, a population-based nationwide cohort, for the study. They analyzed and followed 732,199 Koreans between January 2004 and December 2013. Using the Korean National Death Registry and lung cancer diagnosis code (ICD-10 code C34, the team identified cancer incidence and mortality.

Compelling Findings

In order to tackle the combined association of these drugs with lung cancer risk and linked-mortality, the team classified the cohort into eight groups according to their exposure to aspirin, statins, and metformin. A compelling finding emerged—the combined use of the three medications was found to be associated with lower lung cancer incidence and mortality in comparison to non-users.

Tablets and Pills- Representational Picture
Representational Picture Piqsels

"When these cardiovascular drugs were used in combination, their protective associations with lung cancer risk and related mortality were augmented and the magnitude of effect increased with increasing duration of medication use," explained Dr. Shin.

A Strong Case for Concurrent Use

In the most recent period of the study, 2012-2013, the number of study participants consuming all the three drugs was 3.4 percent (i.e) 23,163 out of 676,520 participants. "Interestingly, the inverse association of combined use of aspirin, statins, and metformin was prominent, and the longer the duration of combined use, the more protective the association," illustrated Dr. Shin.

According to Dr. Shin's theory, the concomitant or concurrent use of the three drugs inhibits multiple pathways related to lung cancer cell growth and its multiplication. This results in a favorable relationship with cancer risk and mortality.

"This finding is in line with a study demonstrating that aspirin and metformin synergistically inhibit lung cancer cell proliferation by activating AMP-activated protein kinase, which plays a critical role in regulation of lipogenesis in cancer cells," added Dr. Shin.