IBD Drugs May Raise Skin Cancer RiskOct 27, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP Another class of medication appears to have some links to skin cancer, according to recent research. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients are the latest who have experienced higher risks for developing skin cancer, WebMD Health News is reporting.
WebMD Health News noted that the study was presented at the American College of Gastroenterology's annual meeting in San Diego, California. Millie Long, MD MPH one of the researchers from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, said that the issue is likely connected to IBD medicines, said WebMD, with some drugs riskier than others. ''Patients on immunosuppressant medications, particularly of the thiopurine class, have an increased risk of skin cancer, greater than three times, compared to patients with IBD who do not use these medications," Long told WebMD. Purinethol and Imuran are examples of thiopurines, WebMD pointed out.
In the past, IBD included ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, said WebMD, which explained that different gastrointestinal tract areas are affected; however, both “involve chronic inflammation, resulting in symptoms such as diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and abdominal cramps.” IBS—irritable bowel syndrome—noted WebMD, is different than IBD and does not include the inflammation or damage seen in IBD. There is no cure for IBD and its cause remains unknown, but experts believe the disease is connected to an inappropriate immune system response. IBD medications generally work to reduce immune system activity.
Nonmelanoma skin cancers include squamous cell and basal cell cancers, which are diagnosed in about one million Americans each year, said WebMD, which pointed out that these cancers have a very high cure rate when found early.
Long explained that her findings differ from prior research pointing to an increased skin cancer risk in IBD patients, because her new research focuses in on specific medications, said WebMD, an area not researched previously.
Long and her team looked at a 26, 203 IBD patient records for people suffering from Crohn’s disease and 26,974 with ulcerative colitis, said WebMD. The team reviewed records from 1996 through 2005 and each patient was matched according to a variety of demographics--age, gender, geographical region—with records from three patients not diagnosed with IBD, noted WebMD. The risk of developing nonmelanoma skin cancer was 1.6 times higher for the IBD group than the nonIBD group said WebMD.
The team then looked at the IBD patients and their medications and compared 742 IBD patients with skin cancer to 2,968 IBD patients not diagnosed with skin cancer. The team concluded that immunosuppressant medicine use in the prior 90 days increased skin cancer risks by 3.2, with Thiopurines increasing the risk the most, said WebMD. “Thiopurines are mercaptopurine (Purinethol) and axathioprine (Imuran)”; “Biologics include imfliximab (Remicade) and others,” said WebMD.
Long-term use—at least one year—increased the risks and those on long-term thiopurines experienced a four-fold increased risk, while Crohn's patients on long-term biologics experienced two-fold increased risk of skin cancer, Long and her team found, said WebMD.
We recently wrote about another study in which a connection with how hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is linked to skin cancer.