Patients with rheumatoid arthritis have been shown to have an increased risk of developing cancers, but the reasons for this are unclear. In a paper in this week’s BMJ Dr Eva Baecklund et al from the University Hospital in Uppsala in Sweden studied 11,683 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, of whom 42 developed a lymphoma (a cancer in which cells of lymphoid tissue, found mainly in the lymph nodes and spleen, multiply unchecked). The authors found that there seems to be a strong association between the effect that rheumatoid arthritis has on the immune system of sufferers and the increased risk of lymphoma. They also discovered that there was no association between any specific drug used to treat the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Dr Baecklund et al conclude that their findings provide a strong argument for the use of potent immunosuppressive treatments to reduce disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, not only to prevent joint damage but possibly also to protect against lymphoma.
Sources: BMJ – British Medical Journal, EurekAlert