People with MS have a lower overall risk of cancer
22 June 2012
Author: MS Trust
Research published in the journal Brain has found that people with MS are less likely to develop certain cancers particularly colorectal cancer, but also brain and bladder cancer
Researchers at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health investigated overall cancer risk in people with MS in North America. This is a subject that has not been studied before in people with MS and was based on the idea that the immune system plays an important role in both cancer and MS.
The researchers compared the diagnoses of cancer and tumour size in people with MS in British Columbia, Canada, with those of the general population (a total of 6,820 people).
While they found that people with MS have a lower risk in general for cancer, the risk for colorectal cancer in particular was significantly lower. They also found that the risks for brain cancer and bladder cancer were only slightly higher than this. The risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancer was suggested to be higher for people with relapsing remitting MS.
Surprisingly, for those people who did develop cancer, tumour size tended to be larger at the time of tumour diagnosis. The researchers speculate that the symptoms of cancer may often remain hidden or become ignored particularly as the symptoms of MS can vary so much and may include fatigue.
The researchers of the study suggested that further studies will be needed to understand why people with MS have a reduced overall cancer risk and to determine why some tumours might be caught later in people with MS.
Kingwell E et al.
Cancer risk in multiple sclerosis: findings from British Columbia, Canada.
Brain 2012 Jun 21. [Epub ahead of print]