Are you having back pain with any of the following?

  • Severe pain, weakness or tingling in your leg(s).
  • Difficulty stopping urination or loss of control of bladder or bowels.
  • Unexplained fever, nausea or vomiting.
  • A history of cancer or unexplained weight loss.

We understand that you are experiencing one or more of the health issues that might be impacting your back pain.

We recommend that you discuss these health issues with your doctor before proceeding with this program.

Once you are cleared by your doctor to do this program, we hope it helps you find relief from your back pain.

Cancer Care

Santa Clara Medical Center

News & Events

Dr. Pan and Dr. Lee's Blog

Cholesterol and Cancer

Mar 01, 2011

By Dr. Sheryl Sun and Dr. Minggui Pan

When your doctor checks for your blood cholesterol level, most likely a “Lipid Panel” is ordered.

A “Lipid Panel” includes testing for:

  • Total cholesterol in the blood
  • Triglyceride - an oily lipid floating in the blood
  • Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (LDL-C)
  • High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (HDL-C)

This test requires fasting for 12 hours to be accurate (you can have your blood drawn before breakfast).

LDL-C is called bad cholesterol because abnormally high LDL-C increases the risk of coronary heart disease, whereas HDL-C is called good cholesterol because the high HDL-C level reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

Is there any association between cholesterol and cancer? There have been many epidemiologic studies to understand the relationship between cholesterol and cancer. There have also been many studies to understand the relationship between cholesterol-lowering drugs called “statins” and incidence of cancer. Visit our web page about cholesterol drugs for more information on statins and cancer.

Low cholesterol levels do not cause cancer

For many decades, there was an observation that low cholesterol levels were associated with a higher incidence of cancer. This caused concern that perhaps low level of cholesterol could cause cancer. This concern is now largely resolved as two new studies published in the November 2009 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention have found no such link. The analysis from the first study appears to suggest that low levels of serum cholesterol most likely reflect undiagnosed cancer. This also raises the question: do low cholesterol levels behave as a marker that could predict the existence of cancer. There is no evidence for this yet and your doctor will not use cholesterol for cancer screening. Indeed, patients with cancer that go undiagnosed can lose weight and nutrition causing the cholesterol to decrease.

The other study called Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial that examined the link between very low cholesterol and prostate cancer and found actually low cholesterol levels were associated with low incidence of high-grade (aggressive) prostate cancer. High-density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (HDL-C) may reduce the risk of cancer

The first study published in 2009 also showed that high levels of HDL-C were associated with lower risk of cancer overall. This finding was confirmed by a more recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in June 2010 that analyzed 24 trials. This analysis found that the higher the HDL-C levels were the lower the risk of cancer. For every 10mg/dL higher HDL-C there was a 36% lower risk of cancer.

How to increase your HDL-C level?

The studies mentioned above suggest a link between high HDL-C and lower risk of cancer, but does not confirm that high HDL-C can definitely lower the risk of cancer. However, HDL-C is well known for preventing heart disease and stroke, if not preventing cancer.


Exercise raises the good cholesterol HDL-C, especially the aerobic type of exercise. It appears the duration of exercise is more important than the intensity of exercise. Try to exercise 30 to 60 minutes for every day of the week can help raise the good cholesterol.


A diet containing fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grains, nuts, non-fat daily products, fish, shell fish, and some chicken and turkey is ideal. You want to avoid animal fat as this is saturated fat that raises the bad (LDL) cholesterol. You also want avoid trans fats (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) as these not only raise the bad cholesterol they also low the good cholesterol.

Weight loss: High BMI (body mass index) is associated with cancer and other diseases. Ideal BMI is 25. Weight loss raises the good cholesterol level and lowers triglycerides if you are overweight.

Drug therapy:

Statins can lower the bad cholesterol and raise the good cholesterol. Another drug that can raise HDL-C is niacin, a very old drug, normally well tolerated but occasionally can cause uncomfortable side effect such as flushing. You may discuss the drug therapy with your primary care physician if you have high cholesterol that requires drug therapy.

Last but not least, stop smoking! Stop smoking raises the good cholesterol by several points.

Additional References and Links:

Destination health: Stopping cancer before it starts

Focus on cancer prevention, screening, treatment, and research

2019 "Eat Well, Heal Well Live Well" Resources and Educational Session Links

Resources and educational links for our 2019 Seeds of Hope.

2018 Healthy Body, Healthy Mind Resources and Educational Session Links

Resources and educational links for our 2018 Seeds of Hope.

View All »