Risk of skin cancer

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ski bum
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Date Joined Jan 2007
Total Posts : 451
   Posted 1/13/2010 7:10 PM (GMT -7)   
I have to choose between Immuran and a biological (again). I'm concerned about the increased risk of skin cancer with these medications. I've had three squamous cell skin cancers and don't want a 4th any time soon. My doctor thinks that the risk of skin cancer is greater with the biologicals, as they work on a cellular level. Being the distrustful person that I am, I thought I'd get a second opinion from Healing Well. Any thoughts?
50 y/o F. CD dx'd Aug 05. Initially on Pentasa, then Imuran 125 mg. Started Humira (very reluctantly) on 10/24/07. Ileocolectomy 4/08. Back on Pentasa as maintenance.

Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2008
Total Posts : 190
   Posted 1/13/2010 7:17 PM (GMT -7)   
I've read some information on how Imuran can cause you to get sunburn easily. I just tapered off of it, but last summer I noticed that I got sunburned real easy and I did apply sunblock. It seems to affect people in different ways.
AKA - ChronnieMan

Post Edited (CrohnnieMan) : 1/13/2010 7:21:20 PM (GMT-7)

Rider Fan
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Date Joined May 2008
Total Posts : 1445
   Posted 1/13/2010 8:05 PM (GMT -7)   
I think your GI is right. There is a greater risk of skin cancer with a biological. If you haven't tried Imuran yet, I'd go with that one first anyway. Just make sure you're taking a therapeutic dose as often GI's don't prescribe enough.
33 y/o male. Dx'ed in 1999. No surgeries.

Current meds: Humira 2/27/09. Proferrin iron pills.

Tried SCD, didn't work, now avoiding gluten and dairy.

Go Saskatchewan Roughriders!

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   Posted 1/13/2010 9:58 PM (GMT -7)   
I can't recall reading any information comparing the increased risk of skin cancer between the biologics and Imuran [azathioprine]. There was an article in 2005 describing the increased risk of skin cancers in patients taking azathioprine. The patients studied were transplant recipients but there was reference to azathioprine usage at lower doses [like those prescribed in CD] causing a similar risk. You can read this for yourself here:
Moderator Crohn's Disease  & Osteoarthritis Forums
CD, Ankylosing Spondylitis, lupus, small fiber peripheral neuropathy, avascular necrosis, peripheral artery disease, degenerative disc disease, asthma, severe allergy and a host of other medical problems.

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Date Joined May 2009
Total Posts : 703
   Posted 1/13/2010 10:02 PM (GMT -7)   
+1 what Ides said -- I've never heard of increased skin cancer risk with biologics, rather it's lymphomas, etc.

There was a bunch of press recently about increased skin risk with Imuran and similar drugs, like 3-4 times normal but even then it's tiny.
Cimzia, Asacol

Regular Member

Date Joined Dec 2007
Total Posts : 414
   Posted 1/14/2010 2:32 AM (GMT -7)   
I only found out about the increased risk of skin cancer from biologics when I was at the skin cancer clinic before Christmas having a suspected melanoma and 2 other 'dodgy' moles removed (luckily all came back clear) I knew the methotrexate could cause skin problems in the sunlight (I had a phototoxic reaction a couple of years ago which is really nasty and now have to take Plaquenil over spring and summer to prevent it happening again) I think regardless of what medication your on do yourself a favour and stay really safe in the sun and if you have moles get them mapped and keep an eye out for any changes in your skin.

ski bum
Regular Member

Date Joined Jan 2007
Total Posts : 451
   Posted 1/14/2010 7:56 PM (GMT -7)   
Thanks all for your responses. An informed decision is the best one to make, but knowledge sure can be frightening. These are pretty difficult decisions we have to make. I used to spend a lot of time in the sun trying to get a tan, despite my very fair skin. That was way before sunscreen. I wear sunscreen everyday now, but the damage has already been done. Knowing the increased risk of skin cancer and with my history, it would seem foolish to take Imuran. Even with close monitoring and early treatment, a little teeny cancerous lesion on the surface of the skin seems to require a much larger area to be excised. I defended a lawsuit where the patient lost his entire nose to skin cancer. But it would also be foolish of me to not do anything about the ulcerations found at my anastomosis during my recent colonoscopy. So, here I go again - weigh the risks and benefits and choose the least offensive of all evils. SB
50 y/o F. CD dx'd Aug 05. Initially on Pentasa, then Imuran 125 mg. Started Humira (very reluctantly) on 10/24/07. Ileocolectomy 4/08. Back on Pentasa as maintenance.

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