Studies of more than 20,000 US veterans show a higher risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer in RA patients treated with TNF inhibitors than those treated with DMARDS.
It is important to note that non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is found on the outer layer of the skin and is generally found on sun-exposed skin like the face, ears, hands, etc. These cancers rarely spread elsewhere on the body.
Most importantly–these are highly treatable and are usually cured with early detection and treatment.
From the story:
Senior author Prabha Ranganathan, MD, from the Department of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, suggests that patients with RA treated with TNF inhibitors have a complete skin exam by a dermatologist once a year.
(For a reminder on which drugs are TNF inhibitors, click on the medications tab above)
As more studies are conducted, it seems prudent that all of us on any of the biologics pay close attention to our skin–but don’t panic!
As noted by Dr. Ranganathan, “It is intriguing that NMSC risk is increased in patients on anti-TNFs, while most studies to date show that overall cancer risk is not increased in these patients. But this is an observational study, so association does not equal causality.”
So limit your sun exposure, wear sunscreen, and see your doctor. Sound familiar? Enjoy the end of summer folks!
As always, links are provided below for more information.