Circulating lipids and glioma risk: results from the UK Biobank, Nurses’ Health Study, and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study



Evidence is mixed on whether cholesterol plays a role in the pathogenesis of glioma. We explored the associations between circulating lipids and glioma risk in three prospective cohorts.


Using prospective data from the UK Biobank, we examined the associations of total cholesterol (TC), high- and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C, LDL-C), and triglycerides (TG) with glioma risk in multivariable (MV)-adjusted Cox proportional hazards models. Within the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS), we carried out a matched, nested case–control study to examine these same associations.


In the UK Biobank, 490 gliomas accrued over 2,358,964 person-years. TC was not significantly associated with glioma risk (MV HR = 1.20, 95% CI 0.89–1.61 for highest quartile vs. lowest, p-trend = 0.24). In 4-year lagged analyses (n = 229), higher TC was associated with significantly higher risk of glioma in men (MV HR = 2.26, 95% CI 1.32–3.89, p-trend = 0.002) but not women (MV HR = 1.28, 95% CI 0.61–2.68, p-trend = 0.72); similar findings emerged for HDL-C and, to a lesser extent, LDL-C. In the NHS/HPFS, no significant associations were found between cholesterol and glioma risk. No significant associations were identified for TG.


In the UK Biobank, higher prediagnostic TC and HDL-C levels were associated with higher risk of glioma in 4-year lagged analyses, but not in non-lagged analyses, in men only. These findings merit further investigation, given that there are few risk factors and no reliable biomarkers of risk identified for glioma.

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The work is based on the UK Biobank Resource under Application Number 16944. We would like to thank the participants and staff of the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study for their valuable contributions as well as the following state cancer registries for their help: AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, NE, NH, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, WA, and WY. The authors assume full responsibility for analyses and interpretation of these data.


National Institutes of Health (NIH) PO1 CA87969, U01 CA167552, UM1 CA186107, UM1 CA176726, UM1 CA167552, F30 CA235791 (DJC), the Nutrition Round Table of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute (P30 CA076292).

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Cote, D.J., Smith-Warner, S.A., Creed, J.H. et al. Circulating lipids and glioma risk: results from the UK Biobank, Nurses’ Health Study, and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Cancer Causes Control 32, 347–355 (2021).

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  • Glioma
  • Risk
  • Epidemiology
  • Cholesterol
  • Cohort
  • UK Biobank