Dec. 19, 2013

Cancer Risk May Be Higher Among Young Patients with Lupus

Children with lupus may have a higher risk for developing cancer – especially blood cancers such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia – compared to children without lupus. Dr. Sasha Bernatsky of McGill University in Montreal and her colleagues analyzed data from more than 1,000 children with lupus and identified 14 cases of cancer. Only three cases would have been expected among a similar group of children without lupus, matched for age and sex.

In absolute numbers, the risk of cancer among children with lupus is still very small (1.75 cancers per 1,000 person-years). The results of this study are important because children with lupus have the disease for a lifetime and may require aggressive treatment. In the past, studies have shown an increased risk of cancer among adults with lupus, but prior to this study, very little was known about the risk of cancer among children with lupus.  

The researchers grouped the incidents of cancers by sex, age and duration of lupus.  The risks were similar among males and females, and according to age at the time of diagnosis.  The risk was higher, however, among those who had lupus for less than a year, and also those who had lupus for 10 to 19 years. Additional research is needed to confirm these results, and to look closely at the roles that other factors (like medications and disease severity) may have played in these findings.

The results were published November 22, 2013 online in Arthritis Research & Therapy.

Cancer risk in childhood-onset systemic lupus
Arthritis Research & Therapy 2013, 15:R198  doi:10.1186/ar4388/