Melanoma, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Methotrexate

June 5, 2008 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

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Methotrexate (MTX) is a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) commonly prescribed to RA (rheumatoid arthritis patients).

Now, according to Australian researchers, increased risk of melanoma (including other malignancies) have in found in RA patients receiving MTX for treatment.

RA patients exposed to MTX were found to have an estimated 50 percent excess risk of developing cancer in any form. The risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was more than 5 times higher in RA patients than in the general population. RA patients also had a 3-fold increased risk of melanoma and almost a 3-fold increased risk of lung cancer.

While the increased risk levels for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and lung cancer were in line with the findings of related studies in Europe and the United States, the high risk for melanoma stood out as novel.

This might be a warning for rheumatoid arthritis patients receiving MTX as treatment. Then why are RA patients put on MTX? Because when other medication have failed, MTX is used. Of course MTX has various side effects!

From MedlinePlus:

Methotrexate may cause very serious side effects. Some side effects of methotrexate may cause death.

Methotrexate may cause liver damage.

Methotrexate may cause liver damage.

Methotrexate may cause kidney damage.

Methotrexate may cause a decrease in the number of blood cells made by your bone marrow. T

Methotrexate may cause damage to your intestines.

Methotrexate may cause damage to your intestines.

Methotrexate may decrease the activity of your immune system, and you may develop serious infections.

Taking methotrexate may increase the risk that you will develop lymphoma (cancer that begins in the cells of the immune system).

If MTX treatment is that bad, why would anyone agree to be put on this? Also, do doctors still prescribe MTX for RA treatment?

Various studies have linked RA to an increased risk of Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, myeloma, and lung cancer. A link between methotrexate (MTX), a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) commonly prescribed to RA patients, and cancer has also been suggested. Numerous case reports of RA patients treated with MTX developing lymphoma and, even more strikingly, tumors disappearing when the drug was discontinued, have prompted concern that MTX itself may be carcinogenic. So far, however, studies addressing this concern have been inconclusive.

Maybe the findings described above by Australian researchers could be the first conclusive linking MTX to various cancers, most especially melanoma.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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