Monday, November 13, 2006

Rheumatoid Arthritis Meds Won't Up Most Cancer Risk

(HealthDay News) -- Biologic therapy doesn't appear to increase the overall risk of cancer, other than skin cancers, in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, according to researchers who analyzed long-term data from a U.S. national registry.

Some previous studies have suggested that genetically-engineered biologics -- such as adalimumab, etanercept, infliximib, anakinra and abatacept -- may increase the risk of lymphoma and/or lung cancer in rheumatoid arthritis patients.

These drugs are commonly prescribed in order to control immune system abnormalities that cause joint inflammation.

In this study, researchers analyzed data on 13,000 people who took part in the U.S. National Data Bank of Rheumatic Disease between 1998 and 2005. Of those, 48 percent had taken biologics. Among these patients, there were 623 reported new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer and 537 reported cases of all other kinds of cancer.

The researchers compared those rates to rates of cancer in the U.S. general population and found that rheumatoid arthritis patients who used biologics did have an increased risk for melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers but did not have a greater risk for other types of cancers.

"While longer follow-up may be required, this data shows the use of biologic therapy is not associated with increased risks of lymphoma, lung cancer or other cancers among those with rheumatoid arthritis," researcher Dr. Frederick Wolfe, project director, National Data Bank for Rheumatic Disease, said in a prepared statement.

The findings were presented this week at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, in Washington, D.C.

Wolfe has received research funding from drug makers Amgen, Aventis, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Centocor.

More information

The Arthritis Foundation has more about rheumatoid arthritis.

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