Study: Chronic Bowel Disease Medication Linked to Higher Skin Cancer Risk

Study: Chronic Bowel Disease Medication Linked to Higher Skin Cancer RiskThe results of two new studies have shown that some patients being treated for inflammatory bowel disease may be at a higher risk for skin cancer due to the drugs used to manage the disease.

Immunosuppressants are typically used to treat patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBD), and prior to the study, no recommendations for skin cancer screening in IBD patients had been made.

One study, conducted by French researchers at the University Hospital of Nancy, found that one widely used class of drug, called thiopurines, significantly increased the risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancer when used to treat IBD patients.

"The increased risk of skin cancer that we found in our study was observed in all patients, even before the age of 50 years," Peyrin-Biroulet said in a news release from the American Gastroenterological Association. "All patients with irritable bowel disease currently receiving or having previously received thiopurines should protect their skin from UV radiation and receive regular dermatologic screening, regardless of their age."

According to the National Cancer Institute, other common risk factors for non-melanoma skin cancer similar to IBD medication include being exposed to both sunlight and artificial light, having actinic keratosis, and being exposed to arsenic.

Also, sunscreen use has not been determined to prevent non-melanoma skin cancer.

In the second study, a Canadian research team found that men with IBD may already be at risk for basal cell carcinoma, and using thiopurines further increases that risk.

"All individuals should be protecting themselves against skin cancer," lead author Dr. Harminder Singh stated. "But, it is especially important that physicians stress the need to be extra vigilant about skin care with their irritable bowel disease patients, especially among those exposed to immunosuppressants such as thiopurines."