A study has found that cholesterol-lowering drugs can slash the risk of bowel cancer by more than 10%.
Statins, used to prevent heart problems, could see the risk of developing the condition fall by 12%.
The claim came after researchers analysed 22 studies involving more than 2.5 million people.
The study found that the commonly used lipophilic statins had the biggest impact.
Dr Jewel Samadder, who led the research at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in the US, said: “Statin use was associated with a statistically significant reduction in colorectal cancer.”
Statins block the production of cholesterol in the liver and help prevent the build up of hard deposits on the walls of arteries.
They are normally taken by people with diabetes, at risk of heart attacks or with abnormally high cholesterol levels.
But long-term statin use has been associated with a reduced risk of several cancers, including breast, prostate, lung, pancreas and liver – and now bowel.
“Our findings suggest that randomised controlled trials designed to test the hypothesis that statins reduce the risk of colorectal cancer are warranted,” said Dr Samadder.
The findings were presented at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology in San Antonio, Texas.
Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK, affecting around 38,600 people a year.
Copyright Press Association 2010