Rheumatoid Arthritis Boosts Cancer Death Risk: Study

Researchers urge further investigation into targeted therapies to improve survival rate

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TUESDAY, Feb. 27, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Rheumatoid arthritis doesn't increase the risk of developing cancer but does boost a person's risk of dying from a malignancy should it arise, a U.K. study finds.

The study, published in the March issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism, included 2,105 patients with recent-onset inflammatory polyarthritis (IP) who were followed for 10 years. Over time, many cases of new-onset IP develop into rheumatoid arthritis.

During the 10-year period, 123 people developed different kinds of cancer, including bone, lung, breast, prostate, urinary, colon, blood and brain cancers. The researchers compared the rates of cancer among the study participants to rates among the general population.

Overall, patients with IP did not have higher rates of cancer than people in the general population, although they did have a higher risk of blood cell cancers. The study did find a 40 percent increased risk of death among people with both IP/rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.

"The results of this study demonstrated that 5-year cancer survival in patients with IP is substantially reduced in comparison with that in the general population, even after adjusting for differences in age, sex, and cancer site, whereas the overall cancer incidence does not seem to be increased," noted lead researcher Dr. Alan Silman, an epidemiologist at the University of Manchester.

Further research is required in order to determine whether targeted cancer therapies could improve the survival rate for cancer patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

More information

The Arthritis Foundation has more about rheumatoid arthritis.

SOURCE: Arthritis & Rheumatism, news release, Feb. 27, 2007

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