Older people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may have an increased mortality risk if they develop certain types of cancer.
People with RA have an increased risk of developing lung cancer and lymphoma, according to a meta-analysis published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research. In addition, they appear to have a lower risk for developing breast and prostate cancer, but have a 40 to 50 percent increased mortality rate if they do.
“These findings suggest that the additional cancer mortality risk from having RA is more pronounced for those tumors with longer expected median survival,” the researchers wrote.
The median survival rates for those with RA versus those without RA were:
- 7.1 versus 9.5 years for breast cancer,
- 7.3 versus 9.8 for prostate cancer,
- 2.8 versus 3.8 for colorectal cancer and
- 0.9 versus 0.7 years for lung cancer.
Researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Georgia State University School of Public Health analyzed data from nearly 698,000 patients in the Texas Cancer Registry and the Medicare claims database diagnosed with cancer between 2001 and 2010, with more than 139,000 having one of the four specified malignancies. The mean age of diagnosis was 76 and those with RA were more often women.
Mortality rate increased in all four cancers for people who were black, lived in areas with lower income, diagnosed at a later stage and had more comorbidities. A further analysis of comorbidities found diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were associated with worse survival rates overall. Cardiovascular disease was associated with worse survival rate for breast, prostate and colorectal cancer.
Researchers noted the cancers were diagnosed later in RA patients, which may have had an impact on outcomes, but their data did not include potentially relevant information on treatments.