Biologic Medications and Cancer Risk

Biologic Medications and Cancer Risk


(thoughtful music) – Biologic medications are medications that target particular
proteins made by our own bodies that can cause problems with the immune system or inflammation, and they are often modeled
after our own antibodies that our body makes. Some examples of biologic
medications would be medications that block the inflammatory protein TNF. We call those TNF inhibitors. When these medications first came out, there was some concern, particularly with the TNF inhibitors, that by blocking these proteins we could increase people’s risk
of cancer in the long-term. And we do know that
the risk of skin cancer of the non-melanoma type, so the not melanoma skin cancer like squamous cell or basal cell, is slightly increased
with these medications. So, it’s important for
patients on these medications to get a skin exam yearly or more often if that’s indicated by
their dermatologist. When you look at the risk
for other types of cancers, we’ve recently gained a lot more insight into what these risks actually are. So, large studies out of Europe with tens of thousands
of patients have looked at the risk of particular types of cancers in patients who are on
these biologic medications. We know from those studies
that in tens of thousands of patients from Europe
treated with TNF inhibitors, for example, there was not
an increased risk of lymphoma and there was not an
increased risk of melanoma, so these are both reassuring studies that looked at a large group of patients and looked at the risk
compared to patients who were not treated
with these medications. Now, we can only go so far to apply large studies
to an individual patient, and there may be some factors that your rheumatologist will consider when starting you on biologic medications whether the medications are right for you. And this does not
necessarily apply to patients who have already had
certain types of cancer. This is looking at new
cancers in patients.

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