RA Medicines May Increase Skin Cancer Risks

TNF inhibitors may increase risks of skin cancers and melanoma

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) increases a person's risk for some types of cancer such as lymphoma and lowers the risk of other types such as colon and breast. Now, it seems medications for RA increase the risk for another kind of cancer.

Researchers have discovered that commonly prescribed medications that treat RA increase the risk of skin cancer and melanoma.  These drugs are called tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors and are sold under such brand names as Enbrel (etanercept), Humira (adalimumab) and Kineret (anakinra).

"Discuss the benefits of TNF inhibitors with your doctor."

For this research, investigators analyzed 21 studies, eight conference extracts, all of which reported data on cancer linked to TNF inhibitors.

The study involved reviewing information on more than 40,000 patients.

When pooled together, the seven studies showed no additional or only negligible risk of patients taking these drugs developing any type of cancer.

However, four of the studies showed that when compared to people not taking the drug, patients being treated with TNF inhibitors had a 45 percent greater risk of developing skin cancer. Two studies found a 79 percent increased risk for melanoma.

This review and meta analysis was published in the September issue of Annals of Rheumatic Diseases.

All of the authors reported having financial relationships with the pharmaceutical industry, including the company that funded this study, Wyeth Europa.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 12, 2011
Last Updated:
September 16, 2011