Rheumatoid Arthritis May Increase Mortality Risk in Certain Cancers

People with rheumatoid arthritis who present with certain types of cancer may find their doctors recommending more aggressive treatments. A relatively recent study showed that morality rates were much higher for people with arthritis who happened to develop breast or prostate cancer.

The results were derived from a large population-based study that found a 40 percent increase in morality risk for breast cancer patients. The risk for prostate cancer patients who also have rheumatoid arthritis was about 50 percent higher. Mortality risk rates were also notably higher for those who developed colorectal cancer. Researchers noted that cancers were diagnosed a bit later in patients with RA than others. It was also found that patients with arthritis were less likely to undergo such treatments as radiotherapy. Treatment interference may also result from the use of agents used to address RA, which may partially explain the higher mortality rate.

The findings point to the need for patients with rheumatoid arthritis and their doctors to remain watchful for the potential of certain forms of cancer developing. Although patients with RA tend to have a lower risk rate for the development of breast and colorectal cancers due to the anti-inflammatory drugs used to treat their chief complaint, the study shows mortality risks rise if these diseases do develop. That means routine screenings can be especially vital for early detection and treatment of colorectal, breast and prostate cancer in RA patients.

Although more research is needed to provide best practices for cancer prevention, detection and treatment in RA patients, the study shed light on some potential areas of concern. People who have been diagnosed with RA are strongly urged to talk to their healthcare providers about cancer risks and the need for routine screening. Cancers implicated in the study tend to be highly treatable when caught in their earliest phases. For RA patients, the need for more aggressive monitoring may be advisable.

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