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Expert Opin Drug Saf. 2008 Sep;7(5):539-46. doi: 10.1517/14740338.7.5.539 .

Risk of skin cancer in the drug treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

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Stanford University School of Medicine, Division of Immunology and Rheumatology, 1000 Welch Road, Suite 203, Palo Alto, Stanford, CA 94304, USA.



It is well established that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is associated with an increased risk of lymphoproliferative disorders when compared to the general population. It remains unclear whether this risk is owing to underlying inflammation and immune dysregulation, effects of disease modifying medications or a combination of the two. With increasing use of targeted biologic therapies, including those that may theoretically interfere with innate tumor surveillance, there is increasing concern about the development of other malignancies.


The English language literature was searched to identify observational studies and clinical trials reporting incidence and relative risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) among RA patients.


The numbers of melanomas reported were too small to draw conclusions regarding increased or decreased risk with underlying RA or commonly used medications. Relative incidence of NMSCs is difficult to assess given the lack of standardized reporting in the general population. No safety signal concerning skin cancer with RA or its therapies is at present identified.

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