Risk of Skin Cancer Might be Linked to the Use of Biological Agents for Rheumatoid Arthritis

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Latest research reveals that the biological agents used to provide relief from the aches of rheumatoid arthritis can be a cause for skin cancers. Previously, it has been known that inflammatory arthritis can enhance the risk of certain types of cancer, especially of the lung and lymphoma. Risks associated with breast and bowel cancers are lower. The research was aimed at finding out if there was any change in the risk of cancer when medicines influencing the immune system were used. These drugs are called TNF inhibitors, short for Tumor Necrosis Factor inhibitors.

Results were arrived at by analyzing databases of the medical archives. The data is between the years of 1998 and 2010. The data was obtained from the British Society for Rheumatology, European League against Rheumatism and American College of Rheumatology. The results obtained were diverse. Eight conference abstracts and results of twenty one independent studies were considered for analysis. All the data was confined to those relating to TNF inhibitor usage. Some of the drugs that are used for the inhibition are adalimumab, protein etanercept and monoclonal antibodies infliximab. On the whole, cases of 40,000 patients were analyzed. Calculating the duration of treatment of each patient, the total number of treatment years was calculated to be 150,000 years.

Seven studies revealed that intake of TNF inhibitors did not have any influence over the enhancement of cancer risk. In cases where influence was found, it was largely negligible. These studies involved patients who had undergone long-term treatments as well. In agreement to the results of these studies were two more studies that showed no impact at all and no increase in the risk of cancer in people who were administered TNF inhibitors. However, these two studies revealed that people who had a previous history of cancer did face an increase in the risk of relapse. The rise in increase cannot be attributed directly to the use of TNF inhibitors.

In start contrast to these studies were four studies which claimed a 45% increase in cancer risk, especially in skin cancer. But melanoma risk was found to be low. In agreement with these four results were two more studies which showed a 79% hike in skin cancer risk in patients who took TNF inhibitors. In this case, the increase in the risk of melanoma was found to be significant. The conclusion of the study was that although intake of TNF inhibitors did cause an increase in the risk of melanoma and other types of skin cancers, the influence on other kinds of cancers such as lymphoma is negligible.