SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) -- Heart doctors are concerned that an article in this week's edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association could discourage people from taking drugs they need to lower their cholesterol levels.
The article, written by Dr. Thomas Newman of the University of California at San Francisco, says the drugs can cause cancer in laboratory animals. He said he conducted research after finding that the small print tied to advertisements for the drugs warned they could cause cancer. (136k AIFF sound or 136k WAV sound)
Nonetheless, the Journal printed a commentary that concluded Newman failed to prove the drugs increase cancer risk. Other doctors agreed. "There is no evidence these drugs cause cancer in humans," said Dr. Thomas Bersot, who heads the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, a clinic at the University of California at San Francisco that treats patients with high blood cholesterol. He said the article could frighten people into not taking the drugs they need. ( 94k AIFF sound or 94k WAV sound)
Newman himself warned that people should not stop taking cholesterol-lowering drugs without consulting their physicians. He said he wrote the article primarily to get people to think about the drugs.
One cholesterol patient, Joe Garrett, whose father died of heart disease, said the research findings won't stop him from taking the drugs. "It seems to me there's just a lot more risk in not taking the medicines, not doing something about the cholesterol. So it doesn't worry me," Garrett said.
Dorothy Schwartzberg, who also has high cholesterol, worries that her condition will damage her heart, but she also worries about cancer and hopes she does not have to choose between the two. "If the studies really show that, it's something I'll have to think about, about cancer," she said.
Newman said doctors write 10 times as many prescriptions for cholesterol-lowering drugs as they did a decade ago. "(For) people at risk of heart disease, there's a known benefit there, at least in the short term, that justifies the use of the drug," he said.
But he also advised young adults with high cholesterol levels who are in relatively good health to consider the possible negative effects of the drug over years of use. (145k AIFF sound or 145k WAV sound)
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