The study has shed new light on the effect that statins, cholesterol-lowering drugs, could have in preventing cancer.
Published in the journal Science, the research examines the strong link between obesity and an increased risk of cancer.
It has been shown that those who are overweight have an increased build up of hormones, like oestrogen, which help to drive the growth of cancers.
The team of scientists from the US Duke University Medical Centre, were able to show how cholesterol plays a similar role.
It is the by-product created by the body when breaking down cholesterol, known as 27HC, that can mimic oestrogen and hence produce the same effect as the hormone in the body.
Experiments, carried out on mice, found that a diet high in fat increased the levels of 27HC present in the body and subsequently led to tumours that were 30 per cent larger than those mice who were fed a normal diet.
In these mice tumours were also found to spread more rapidly. Even the human breast cancer tissue, when ‘fed’ 27HC grew at alarmingly high rates in the laboratory.
Researchers believe their findings could justify the use of lowering cholesterol to decreasing the risk of breast cancer developing.
While millions around the world are already taking statins to decrease their risk of heart disease, a healthier diet is also another way to lower cholesterol in the bloodstream.