Like Dennis Rodman and Madonna, it’s a relationship that seems unlikely. But findings from a new U.S. retrospective cohort study indicate that patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), especially those receiving the thiopurine class of medications to treat IBD, may be at risk for developing non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC).
Dr. Millie Long of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and her colleagues investigated if IBD could be associated with a higher risk of non-melanoma skin cancer, and if the risk of that NMSC increased as a result of immunosuppressive and biologic medications.
IBD includes two related but different diseases: ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. These diseases cause chronic inflammation of the intestinal tract, which leads to a variety of symptoms and can also involve organs other than the intestines. IBD is a lifelong disease with periods of active disease alternating with periods of disease control (remission). IBD is sometimes confused with, but is different than irritable bowel syndrome.
According to the American College of Gastroenterology, there are more than one million people with IBD in the United States with new cases diagnosed at a rate of 10 cases per 100,000 people. These diseases account for 700,000 physician visits per year and 100,000 hospitalizations per year in the United States. Ulcerative colitis can be cured with surgery, but Crohn's disease is incurable.
When the patient records of 26,403 patients with Crohn's disease and 26,974 patients with ulcerative colitis, dating from 1996 through 2005 were matched by age, sex and region of the country with three randomly selected control patient records, the incidence rate ratios of non-melanoma skin cancer was higher (1.64) in patients with IBD compared to their matched controls. The researchers then set out to see if recent use of biologic or thiopurine class of immunosuppressive medications had any impact on non-melanoma skin cancer risk.