Skin Cancer and IBD Medications

Jennifer Rackley Health Pro
  • According to a recent study of 26,403 Crohn's disease patients and 26,974 patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) some of the medications used to treat IBD can increase the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancers. The use of immunosuppressive drugs and biologic agents were both studied and both increased the risk of skin cancer developing (1).


    Some of these increased rates are thought to be due to medications preventing the body from fighting rouge cells and the other due to increased photosensitivity. While it is unrealistic to change IBD treatments plans there are lifestyle changes you may need to make in light of this new information.

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    There are several things that the American Cancer Society (ACS) suggest doing in order to prevent, identify and treat skin cancer in its early stages. The first involves limiting the exposure to UV rays. Covering up, using an SPF of 15 or higher with generous application, wearing a hat and sunglasses, avoiding tanning beds or being outside during the higher UV hours (midday) can limit your exposure.


    It is also important to know the risk factors for skin cancer. If you are on some of these IBD medications you already have one risk factor. Other risk factors can be found on the ACS website HERE and should be discussed with your doctor. Frequent skin checks at home and with your dermatologist can find skin cancers in the earliest and most treatable stages.


    While the skin cancers mentioned in this research are not known to be as deadly as melanoma, they can still cause problems or cause disfigurment if left untreated. If you find any new skin irregularity that does not feel right, get it checked. As someone who has had skin cancer, I would also recommend that you have the tissue sent to pathology. That is the only way to know definitively which type of skin cancer you are dealing with.


    It may be scary to hear yet another thing to add to your list of medical woes, but knowledge is power. Be informed, protect your skin and get checked out by a dermatologist. A little time now can save you a lot of pain in the future!!



Published On: November 02, 2009