The relative risk of developing cancer was found to be higher in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients who more frequently switched between disease-modifying treatments, according to a study.
In addition, researchers found an increased incidence of cancer in male MS patients from 20 to 50 years old, and in female MS patients over 50.
The data were reported in the study “Cancer Risk and Multiple Sclerosis: Evidence From a Large Italian Cohort,” published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology.
Previous research has discovered that MS and cancer may share some abnormal functions of the immune system.
To better understand the incidence of cancer in MS patients, and evaluate the impact of disease-modifying treatments (DMTs) on cancer risk, a team led by researchers at the University of Catania, Italy, compared a database of MS patients between 2003 and 2013 in Catania (the second largest city of Sicily in Italy) with the Integrated Cancer Registry of Catania-Messina-Siracusae-Enna, which collects information about cancer in the general population of that particular geographic area.
During the time period analyzed (2003–2013), 2,730 people were diagnosed with MS. Of these, 1,180 patients satisfied the inclusion criteria and were enrolled in the study (67.1% females; mean age of 41.2 years), and of those, a total of 36 incidences of cancer were observed.
Investigators then analyzed the number of cancer cases according to the “expected” number of cases in the Catania community based on the Integrated Cancer registry. These are the “standardized incidence ratios,” or SIR.
If the observed number of cancer cases in MS patients equals the expected number, the SIR is 1, meaning no increased cancer risk. If more cases are observed than expected, the SIR is greater than 1, meaning increased risk. If fewer cases are observed than expected, the SIR is less than 1, meaning less risk.
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