Does the grumbling from your stomach mean skin cancer?

According to the Mayo clinic, 1 out every 5 Americans suffers from Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD. Some of those with IBD may be at an increased risk for skin cancer, because of the immunosuppressant drugs used to treat the condition, according to studies.

In the November issue of Gastroenterology, two studies published stated that aren’t any specific recommendations for skin cancer screening in IBD patients. Also, immunosuppressants are commonly used to treat patients with inflamatory bowel disease.

In one study of the Univ. Hospital of Nancy, lead researcher Dr. Laurent Peyrin-Biroulet, found that both past and present use of imunosupperssants, called thiopurines, among IBD patients greatly increased the risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancer.  Non melanoma skin cancer includes basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, which are the most common forms in theUnited States.

All patients showed an increased risk of skin cancer, and as expected, this risk also 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 screenings, regardless of age.

In a second study, Canadian researchers found that certain patients with IBD, such as men with a disorder known as Crohn’s disease, are at an increased risk of developing basal cell carcinoma.  The use of thiopurines increases the risk.

However, Dr. Harminder Singh, lead author of the study states, “It is especially important that physicians stress the need to be extra vigilant about skin care with their irritable bowel disease patients, especially among those exposed to immunosuppressants such as thiopurines.”  He also adds that there was only a small absolute increased risk of non-melanoma skin cancer seen in the study.  This may not warrant the ceasing of use of thiopurines among patients with IBD in order to control their disease.

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