Some Multiple Dystrophy Patients Have Increased Cancer Risks

Myotonic muscular dystrophy patients are at greater risk of developing cancer

(RxWiki News) Muscular dystrophy is a debilitating disease on its own. Now patients with the most serious form of the disease are learning they have increased risks of other serious diseases.

Individuals living with myotonic muscular dystrophy (MMD) are at greater risk of developing cancer than the general population. MMD causes overall weakness and muscle wasting of the face, hands, feet and neck.

"Patients with MMD should be screened for colon cancer."

Previous studies have indicated that people with MMD may be more susceptible to benign (non-cancerous) and malignant tumors. To test this, National Cancer Institute researcher Shahinaz M. Gadalla, M.D., Ph.D. and colleagues conducted a study to evaluate just what the cancer risks are for people with MMD.

The team examined the records of 1,658 patients with an MMD diagnosis from Sweden and Denmark. Researchers worked with the country's discharge and cancer registries. Patients were followed from the first time they received MMD-related care until they were first diagnosed with cancer, died or emigrated.

During this follow-up, 104 MMD patients were diagnosed with cancer, compared to 52 cases that would be expected in the general population. The authors write that they found significantly greater risks of endometrial, brain, colon and ovarian cancers. Additionally, researchers wrote the data suggested "possible excesses of eye cancer, other female genital organ cancer, thyroid cancer, and pancreatic cancer."

The researchers conclude that patients with MMD should have routine cancer screenings, particularly for colon cancer.

This study is published in the December 14, 2011 issue of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association).

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Review Date: 
December 13, 2011