RA drugs increase skin cancer risk

September 14, 2011

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis who were treated with tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) inhibitors were at an increased risk for skin cancer but not for lymphoma or other malignancies, MedPage Today reports.

Paris - Patients with rheumatoid arthritis who were treated with tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) inhibitors were at an increased risk for skin cancer but not for lymphoma or other malignancies, MedPage Today reports.

An analysis of data from registries set up in Europe and the United States, led by Xavier Mariette, M.D., of Bicêtre Hospital near Paris, indicated that patients taking TNF-alpha inhibitors had a 45 percent increased risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer. In addition, pooled analysis of data from two studies found an increased risk for melanoma.

The analysis included 21 papers and eight abstracts covering 40,000 patients and 150,000 patient-years of treatment.

The authors wrote that with the exception of skin cancer, the analysis “provides reassurance to physicians and patients that the treatment of RA patients with TNF-alpha inhibitors does not increase the risk of malignancy.”

They add that registries should continue to collect data on long-term effects of biologic therapies and that “researchers should be encouraged to publish additional analyses to add to the evidence base.”

The analysis appears online in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.