Skin Inc

Physiology Sponsored by

Email This Item!
Increase Text Size

People on Immunosuppressive Therapies May Be More At Risk for Skin Cancer

Posted: November 5, 2009

Researchers have found patients undergoing treatments that require immunosuppressive drugs may be more susceptible to non-melanoma skin cancers, requiring greater care with their skin treatments.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients who are being treated with immunosuppressive medications may be at increased risk for non-melanoma skin cancer, a new U.S. study says. Researchers analyzed data on 26,403 Crohn's disease patients and 26,974 patients with ulcerative colitis in order to evaluate how the use of immunosuppressive and biologic medications to treat IBD affected non-melanoma skin cancer risk.

The study found that the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer was higher in IBD patients than in a control group. Recent use (within 90 days) of any immunosuppressive medication was associated with greater risk of non-melanoma skin cancer (adjusted odds ratio 3.28), as was recent use of the thiopurine class of immunosuppressive medications (adjusted odds ratio 3.56) and recent use of biologic medications in Crohn's disease patients (adjusted odds ratio 2.07).

Persistent use of any immunosuppressive medication, which was considered use for more than one year, was strongly associated with non-melanoma skin cancer (adjusted odds ratio 4.04), the study authors noted. The association was even stronger with persistent use of thiopurine medications (adjusted odds ratio 4.27). In Crohn's disease, persistent use of biologic medications was also associated with a raised risk (adjusted odds ratio 2.18).

"The increased risk of non-melanoma skin cancer in patients with IBD is likely related to the immunosuppressive medications used to treat the disease, although we can't rule out changes to the immune system itself as a result of IBD as contributing to this risk," said study leader Dr. Millie Long, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.