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Crohn's Disease Health Center

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These Drugs Not Linked to Short-Term Cancer Risk

After nearly 4 years of follow-up, people taking the drugs were no more likely to develop cancer


"These results did not reveal any significantly increased risk of cancer," Andersen said. They also found no association between the drugs and any site-specific cancers.

However, the authors noted that follow-up for patients treated with the drugs lasted about four years, making it impossible to say whether they would have an increased risk of cancer over the long term.

Braiteh believes that overall cancer risk does not increase when anti-TNF-a drugs are used because cancer risks are exchanged, cancelling each other out.

Crohn's disease and colitis increase a person's risk of colon cancer due to the constant inflammation, he said. By cooling down the inflammation with these drugs, you reduce a person's risk of colon cancer but potentially increase their risk of developing other forms of cancer.

"We may be decreasing your risk of colon cancer, but slightly increasing your risk of other cancers, so the net balance is zero," Braiteh said. "Maybe we're trading a risk of colon cancer for other cancer, but the net balance is even."

Alternative medications such as methotrexate are available, but they are not as effective and carry the same potential risk for autoimmune-related cancer, Braiteh said.

Both the authors and Braiteh said that further research is needed to confirm these findings.

In the meantime, people with inflammatory bowel disease should feel free to take anti-TNF-a drugs without concern for cancer, Braiteh said.

"This study is comforting for patients and doctors who treat these patients for an inflammatory bowel disease that increases your risk of colon cancer to start with," he said.

The research appears in the June 18 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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