IBD patients face increased skin cancer risk

November 21, 2011

Certain patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may have an increased risk of skin cancer, which is intensified by the use of immunosuppressant medications , according to two new studies in Gastroenterology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association. Immunosuppressants are commonly used in the treatment of IBD.

In the first study, researchers found that both past and present exposure to thiopurines (a widely used class of immunosuppressants) significantly increased the risk of nonmelanoma (NMSC) in patients with IBD, even before the age of 50. Currently, there are no specific recommendations for screening for skin cancers in individuals with IBD.

"The of skin cancer that we found in our study was observed in all patients, even before the age of 50 years. As expected, this risk increased with age. All patients with currently receiving or having previously received thiopurines should protect their skin from and receive regular dermatologic screening, regardless of their age," said Laurent Peyrin-Biroulet, MD, PhD, of University Hospital of Nancy, Henri Poincaré University, Vandoeuvre-lès-Nancy, France, and lead author of this study.

NMSC mainly encompasses basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), which are by far the most common cancers diagnosed in North America. NMSC continues to be the most common cancer diagnosed among individuals on immunosuppressive medications; patients with IBD are increasingly treated with these immunosuppressant medications.

In a second study, researchers concluded that certain individuals with IBD, such as men with Crohn's disease, may have a baseline increased risk of BCC, and the use of thiopurines increases the risk of SCC.

"All individuals should be protecting themselves against skin cancer," said Harminder Singh, MD, MPH, FRCPC, of the University of Manitoba and lead author of this study. "But, it is especially important that physicians stress the need to be extra vigilant about skin care with their irritable bowel disease patients, especially among those exposed to immunosuppressants such as thiopurines."

However, Dr. Singh and his colleagues note that the small absolute increased risk of NMSC may not merit stopping thiopurines for those who need them for their IBD disease control.

Explore further: Older Australians at risk of sun-related skin cancer death

More information: For more information on IBD, please read the AGA brochure "Understanding Inflammatory Bowel Disease" at www.gastro.org/patient-center/digestive-conditions/inflammatory-bowel-disease

Related Stories

Thiopurine therapy improves quality of life

March 1, 2010

Patients with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis do perceive a benefit from thiopurine treatment. A report in the open access journal BMC Gastroenterology has demonstrated improved ...

Recommended for you

New drug to fight fatal but neglected tropical disease

August 31, 2016

In a breakthrough for those infected by the parasites that cause sleeping sickness, a young Queensland researcher has identified a compound that kills the parasites in the lab without having any toxic effect on human cells.

Traces of Ebola virus linger longer than expected in semen

August 31, 2016

Initial data from a Liberian public health program show about 9 percent (38) of 429 male Ebola survivors had fragments of Ebola virus in their semen. Of those, 63 percent had semen samples that tested positive for Ebola fragments ...

Researchers discover a drug for a tropical disease

August 30, 2016

Researchers at the University of Georgia are working to find the fastest way possible to treat and cure human African trypanosomiasis, long referred to as sleeping sickness. By working to improve chemical entities already ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.