The prescription drugs, known as statins, were found to lower the risk by 57 per cent, increasing to more than 80 per cent for patients on higher doses, or who had been taking them for a least five years.
Published in the journal BMC Gastroenterology, the findings could be an important step towards preventing a frequently fatal disease.
Bowel cancer is an increasingly common form of the illness, with more than 37,000 people in the UK being diagnosed each year.
It also has a high mortality rate; approximately 16,000 people died from it last year alone.
The findings are the result of a study by a group of academics including Tom Broughton, who used the research for his MRes in Clinical Science course last year. He was supervised by leading clinician and lecturer Dr Ian Beales, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School.
Dr Beales said: “Statins may have a protective effect against the development of colorectal cancer. Our case-control study shows that statin use was associated with a lower incidence of colorectal cancer and this effect was associated with a significant dose and duration response.”
The study involved 101 cancer patients and 132 healthy adults. The use of statins between the two groups was compared against cancer diagnoses.
Those who had taken statins were less likely to develop tumours or go into hospital. The longer they had been on the tablets, the higher their levels of protection.
Although researchers stressed that the study was only conducted on a small scale, it is hoped the findings could be utilised in preventing bowel cancer.
For more information about the MRes in Clinical Science course, visit www.uea.ac.uk/med/medicine-health-policy-and-practice/mres-in-clinical-science.