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Risk of non-melanoma skin cancer in a national cohort of veterans with rheumatoid arthritis.

Amari W, Zeringue AL, McDonald JR, Caplan L, Eisen SA, Ranganathan P. Risk of non-melanoma skin cancer in a national cohort of veterans with rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology (Oxford, England). 2011 Aug 1; 50(8):1431-9.

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OBJECTIVE: To determine the incidence of and risk factors for non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) in a national cohort of veterans with RA. METHODS: We examined skin cancer risk in a cohort of 20 648 patients with RA derived from the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) national administrative databases. The cohort was divided into two medication groups: patients treated with non-biologic and TNF- antagonist DMARDs. We defined skin cancer as the first occurrence of an International Classification of Disease, Version 9, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) code for NMSC after initiation of a DMARD. Outcome risk was described using hazard ratios (HRs) with Cox proportional hazards regression for time-to-event analysis and logistic regression. We performed medical record review to validate the diagnosis of NMSC. RESULTS: Incidence of NMSC was 18.9 and 12.7 per 1000 patient-years in patients on TNF- antagonists and non-biologic DMARDs, respectively. Patients on TNF- antagonists had a higher risk of developing NMSC (HR 1.42; 95% CI 1.24, 1.63). Risk factors for NMSC included older age, male gender, NSAID and glucocorticoid use and a history of prior malignancies. There was substantial agreement between ICD-9-CM diagnosis of NMSC and medical record validation ( = 0.61). CONCLUSION: TNF- antagonist therapy in veterans with RA may be associated with an increased risk of NMSC, compared with therapy with non-biologic DMARDs. Rheumatologists should carefully screen patients receiving TNF- antagonists for pre-cancerous skin lesions and skin cancer.

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