Common Medication Linked to Skin Cancer Risk

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There’s a “strong case for an association” between the drug azathioprine and the development of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma — a common type of skin cancer, say researchers in the United Kingdom. This medication is used to treat a number of conditions including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), arthritis, and vasculitis, and to prevent organ rejection in transplant patients. In the United States, the drug is sold under the brand names Azasan and Imuran.

Prior research has linked azathioprine to an increased sensitivity to UVA light, which is associated with higher skin cancer risk, and people taking this medication are advised to protect their skin from the sun. In the UK study, published in Nature Communications, the researchers found that the drug leaves a molecular footprint in skin cancer, further implicating it in skin cancer risk.

The researchers conducted a mutational analysis of cutaneous squamous cell tumors in 37 people with skin cancer and were able to identify a new signature (Signature 32) in patients who had been taking azathioprine.

Sourced from: Nature Communications