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Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2006 Mar;18(2):129-34.

Malignancy and autoimmunity.

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Division of Clinical Epidemiology, Montreal General Hospital, Quebec, Canada.



The association of cancer with autoimmune disease has been under investigation for several years. Reports have appeared suggesting increased cancer risk in autoimmune rheumatic diseases. Evidence has been accumulating recently in rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus, and scleroderma/systemic sclerosis. This review focuses on recent publications regarding risk of cancer in these conditions.


Despite a lack of a strong association between rheumatoid arthritis and cancer overall, studies show an increased risk for the development of lymphoma in rheumatoid arthritis. There are data suggesting an increased risk for rheumatoid arthritis patients regarding lung cancer. In Sjogren's syndrome-related malignancies, most publications in the past year relate to non-Hodgkin's lymphomas, and suggest possible mechanisms driving the association. Data substantiate an increased risk of certain cancers in systemic lupus erythematosus; the risk appears to be most heightened for lymphoma. A recent cohort study examined cancer risk in scleroderma; the estimates were lower than previous studies had suggested, and the confidence intervals relatively imprecise, making a definitive conclusion difficult.


There have been several papers published related to cancer in the rheumatic diseases, particularly inflammatory arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus, and scleroderma/systemic sclerosis. Continuing interest in the association between autoimmune rheumatic diseases and malignancy is likely, given the potential impact in terms of understanding both rheumatic diseases and cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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