University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006
The Risk of Cancer Associated with Immunosuppressive Therapy for Skin Diseases
Doctoral dissertation, August 2006.
The possible carcinogenic risk of immunosuppressive therapies is an important issue in everyday clinical practise. Carcinogenesis is a slow multi step procedure, thus a long latency period is needed before cancer develops. PUVA therapy is used for many skin diseases including psoriasis, early stage cutaneous T cell lymphoma, atopic dermatitis, palmoplantar pustulosis and chronic eczema. There has been concern about the increased melanoma risk associated to PUVA therapy, which has previously been associated with an increased risk on non-melanoma skin cancer, especially squamous cell carcinoma. The increased risk of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is also documented but it is modest compared to squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
This thesis evaluated melanoma and noncutaneous cancer risk associated to PUVA, and the persistence of nonmelanoma cancer risk after the cessation of PUVA treatment. Also, the influence of photochemotherapy to the development of secondary cancers in cutaneous T cell lymphoma and the role of short term cyclosporine in later cancer development in inflammatory skin diseases were evaluated.
The first three studies were performed on psoriasis patients. The risk of melanoma started to increase 15 years after the first treatment with PUVA. The risk was highest among persons who had received over 250 treatments compared to those under 250 treatments. In noncutaneous cancer, the overall risk was not increased (RR=1.08,95% CI=0.93-1.24), but significant increases in risk were found in thyroid cancer, breast cancer and in central nervous system neoplasms. These cancers were not associated to PUVA. The increased risk of SCC was associated to high cumulative UVA exposure in the PUVA regimen. The patients with high risk had no substantial exposure to other carcinogens. In BCC there was a similar but more modest tendency.
In the two other studies, the risk of all secondary cancers (SIR) in CTCL patients was 1.4 (95% CI=1.0-1.9). In separate sites, the risk of lung cancer, Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas were increased. PUVA seemed not to contribute to any extent to the appearance of these cancers. The carcinogenity of short-term cyclosporine was evaluated in inflammatory skin diseases. No increased risk for any type of cancer including the skin cancers was detected.
To conclude, our studies confirm the increased skin cancer risk related to PUVA treatment in psoriasis patients. In clinical practice, this has led to a close and permanent follow-up of patients treated with PUVA. In CTCL patients, PUVA treatment did not contribute to the development of secondary cancers. We could not detect any increase in the risk of cancer in patients treated with short term cyclosporine, unlike in organ transplant patients under such long-term therapy.
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© University of Helsinki 2006
Last updated 21.07.2006