In one study, French researchers led by Dr. Laurent Peyrin-Biroulet, of University Hospital of Nancy, found that both past and present use of a widely used class of immunosuppressants called thiopurines significantly increased the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer in irritable bowel disease 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. As expected, this risk increased with age. 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,” Peyrin-Biroulet said in a news release from the American Gastroenterological Association.
In the second study, Canadian researchers found that certain people with inflammatory bowel disease, such as men with a form of the disorder known as Crohn’s disease, may already be at increased risk for basal cell carcinoma, and the use of thiopurines increases this risk.
However, Singh and his colleagues added that there was only a small absolute increased risk of non-melanoma skin cancer seen in the study, which may not warrant stopping treatment with thiopurines in IBD patients who need the immunosuppressants to control their disease.