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14-07-2011 | Article

Psoriasis patients may face elevated cancer risk


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MedWire News: People with the skin condition psoriasis may have an increased risk for developing cancer, including tumors of the bladder and skin, shows research conducted in Taiwan.

The study is reported in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology by Yun-Ting Chang (Taipei Veterans General Hospital and National Yang-Ming University) and colleagues, who explain: "Whether psoriasis is associated with a greater risk of cancer development is an ongoing controversy.

They continue: "An increased risk of skin cancers in Caucasian psoriasis patients receiving extensive psoralen plus ultraviolet A phototherapy has been reported. A higher risk of lymphoma in psoriasis has also been demonstrated. However, no studies on the cancer risk among psoriasis patients in Asian populations have been reported."

To address this gap in the evidence, Chang's team used a national health insurance database to find information on 3686 Taiwanese people with psoriasis and 200,000 people without psoriasis, who served as a comparison group.

None of the study participants had previously been diagnosed with cancer. However, between the start and end of the study - a period of around 7 years - there were 3574 new cases of cancer.

The researchers calculated that psoriasis sufferers were on average 1.6 times more likely than people without psoriasis to be diagnosed with cancer.

Males and younger people with psoriasis (ie, those aged between 20 and 39 years) faced an even higher risk for developing cancer; in both of these groups, the risk for cancer was around twice as high as in the general population - albeit still low in absolute terms.

Psoriasis was associated with specific types of cancer, including tumors of the skin, bladder, blood/lymphatic system, and lungs.

Based on their findings, Chang and colleagues conclude that psoriasis patients in Taiwan, especially those who are younger and male, are at an increased risk for development of certain cancers.

They say that this is the first time such a link has been observed in an Asian population and note that the findings are important for both patients and doctors. "Dermatologists should be aware of the link to malignancies when assessing the comorbidities of psoriasis," they stress.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Joanna Lyford