The immunosuppressant drugs, which are routinely used to treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), may increase the chances of developing skin cancer. This is the findings of two new studies published in the current issue of the journal “Gastroenterology.” The first study has found an association between thiopurines, used in the treatment of IBD, with an increased risk of non-melanoma skin cancers, while the second study has also found that patients of IBD are more likely to develop skin cancers compared to general population.
The first study, which was led by Dr. Laurent Peyrin Biroulet, from the University Hospital of Nancy, Vandoeuvre-le`s Nancy, France, analyzed 19,486 patients of IBD between May 2004 and June 2005 and compared the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancers in these patients to that in the general population. The researchers concluded that patients who had received thiopurines earlier or were still receiving it, had an increased likelihood of developing skin cancer even before the age of fifty. The researchers have recommended such patients to be protected from the harmful UV rays of the sun and routinely screened for any signs of skin cancer.
The second study published in Gastroenterology, was led by Dr. Harminder Singh, from the University of Manitoba. Dr. Singh, along with his colleagues, identified 9618 patients suffering from IBD, from the database of the University of Manitoba. These participants were compared with 91,378 patients not suffering from IBD. All the individuals were followed up till the end of the year 2009 or until they had been diagnosed with any invasive cancer. The researchers found that patients of IBD had an increased relative risk of developing skin cancer. The use of thiopurines in the treatment of IBD increased the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma. The researchers have however, pointed out that the result of this study does not warrant the stoppage of thiopurines in the treatment of IBD, wherein they are known to be beneficial. The results only warrant extra caution on the part of the physicians and patients, so that in case the patient develops skin cancer, it is caught at an early stage.