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Inflammatory Polyarthritis Linked to Cancer Mortality Risk

Inflammatory Polyarthritis Linked to Cancer Mortality Risk

MANCHESTER, England, March 2 -- Patients with inflammatory polyarthritis, often a precursor to rheumatoid arthritis, are 40% more likely than the general population to die of cancer, according to a prospective cohort study.

These patients are also 60% more likely to develop hematopoietic cancers, including lymphoma, said Alan Silman, M.D., of the Manchester University Medical School here, and colleagues, in the March issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism. The overall occurrence rate of all types of cancer, however, was not higher in inflammatory polyarthritis patients than in the general population.

Several studies have found a "modest" increase in risk of cancer death among patients with rheumatoid arthritis, while others have demonstrated as much as a 2.5-fold increase in risk, Dr. Silman and colleagues said. However, these studies generally included patients with severe rheumatoid arthritis, who would be expected to fare less well with cancer, they said.

One strategy to overcome this limitation is to follow a cohort of patients with new-onset inflammatory polyarthritis, the authors said. "Over time, an increasing proportion of new inset inflammatory polyarthritis evolves into rheumatoid arthritis," they said. In fact, 60% of the study patients developed rheumatoid arthritis during the first five years of follow up.

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