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Study Eases Arthritis Drug Cancer Fears

Patients Taking TNF Inhibitors Had No Increase in Cancer Risk Over 6 Years
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TNF Blockers and Skin Cancer

Two recent studies raised new fears that TNF-blocking drugs increase the risk for nonmelanoma skin cancers.

In one, researchers reported that patients taking TNF inhibitors had a 34% increased risk for nonmelanoma skin cancers, compared with patients taking other disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).

In another, the TNF-blocking drugs appeared to increase the risk for developing nonmelanoma cancers by about 70%, compared to treatment with a traditional DMARD.

Both were presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in mid-October, where experts warned patients on the drugs to check their bodies regularly for abnormal growths that can signal skin cancer.

Given concerns about the potential risk for both infection and cancer in patients who take TNF-blocking drugs, Matteson says it is important that prescribing physicians use them only in patients who have few other options.

He tells WebMD "the jury is still out" on whether they are being over prescribed.

"The majority of patients with rheumatoid arthritis do just as well with non-biologic treatments," he says.

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