Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Some IBD Drugs May Raise Skin Cancer Risk

Study Shows Increased Risk for Patients Taking Immune-Suppressing Medications

IBD Patients Only continued...

Among the findings:

  • Use of any immunosuppressant medicines in the past 90 days increased risk of skin cancer by 3.2, she found.
  • Thiopurine medicine boosted the risk the most, followed by biologics. Among thiopurines are mercaptopurine (Purinethol) and azathioprine (Imuran). Biologics include infliximab (Remicade) and others.
  • Long-term use, defined as a year or more, was more strongly associated with risk of skin cancer. Those who had taken the thiopurine medicines for more than a year, for instance, had a fourfold increased risk of skin cancer; Crohn's patients on long-term biologics had a twofold increased risk.

Exactly why the medications seem to boost the risk of nonmelanoma skin cancers, Long says, isn't certain.

Other research has suggested that the medications may increase the sensitivity of skin to sunlight, she says.

Changes to the immune system itself as a result of the IBD can't be ruled out, however, as a factor increasing skin cancer risk, she says.

Second Opinion

The new study results are no surprise, says Sunanda Kane, MD, MSPH, associate professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., a gastroenterologist who focuses her research and clinical work on IBD.

''We have always sort of suspected that perhaps the common cancers are even more common in patients who are chronically immunosupressed."

The findings should get patients and doctors thinking differently, she says, about who is at risk for skin cancers. "Historically we think of skin cancer patients as Caucasians from the Northern Hemisphere," she says. But many others are also at risk, she says.

''People should not change their medications whatsoever because of these findings," Long says. The take-home message for patients, she says, is to be aware of the risk and keep a closer eye on their skin as well as adhere to safe sunning practices such as wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen.

Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD, vice president of the Skin Cancer Foundation, agrees: ''Patients taking immunosuppressive medication for prolonged periods need to be extra vigilant about checking their skin and practicing sun safety every day."

Today on WebMD

Malignant melanoma
About 40-50 percent of those who live to be 65 may get it. Here’s how to spot early.
Woman checking out tan lines
There’s a dark side to that strive for beauty. See them here.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
12 Ways to Protect Your Skin from Melanoma
precancerous lesions slideshow
Do You Know Your Melanoma ABCs
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
screening tests for men
Vitamin D
Is That Mole Skin Cancer
Brilliant sun rays