Statins are associated with increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin: a whole-population study from Iceland

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Archives of Dermatological Research




Atorvastatin; Basal cell carcinoma; Nonmelanoma skin cancer; Simvastatin; Squamous cell carcinoma; Statins


© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature. Statins have been associated with an increased risk of keratinocyte carcinoma but data are limited and conflicting. Statins are hypothesized to contribute to KC through immunomodulation. A whole-population case–control study of the Icelandic population was conducted using the Icelandic Cancer Registry and Icelandic Prescription Medicine Register. These are high-quality registers which include all cancer diagnoses, as well as every prescription in the country. Cases included all first-time histologically confirmed diagnoses of (BCC), in situ squamous cell carcinoma (SCCis) and invasive SCC between 2003 and 2017. Each case was paired with 10 age- and sex-matched controls. Multivariate conditional logistic regression analysis was performed. Four thousand seven hundred patients with BCC, 1167 patients with SCCis and 1013 patients with invasive SCC were identified and paired with 47,292, 11,961 and 10,367 controls, respectively. Overall statin use was associated with an increased risk of invasive SCC and SCCis but not BCC (adjusted OR [95% CI]: 1.29 [1.11–1.50]; 1.43 [1.24–1.64]; 1.03 [0.95–1.12], respectively). Subgroup analysis demonstrated that statins were significantly associated with invasive SCC and SCCis in patients over 60, but not in those under 60. Atorvastatin was only associated with an increased risk of SCCis; whereas, simvastatin was associated with an increased risk of both invasive SCC and SCCis. This whole-population study of Iceland demonstrates that statin exposure is associated with increased risk of SCC, but not BCC, in a low UV environment. The reasons are unclear, but our results may suggest that individuals receiving atorvastatin and simvastatin have differing levels of baseline keratinocyte cancer risk or that properties of a statin other than ‘statin intensity’ affect association with SCC.