Higher Mortality Rates Reported for Breast, Prostate Cancer Patients with RA

A review of well over 100,000 patients in Texas found that breast and prostate cancer patients with rheumatoid arthritis lived roughly two years less than those without.

In an expansive review of Texan patients with breast, colorectal, prostate, and lung cancer, researchers say their work suggests that “additional cancer mortality risk from having RA is more pronounced for those tumors with longer expected median survival.”

The study reviewed 139,097 patients diagnosed with one of those four cancers between the years of 2001 and 2010, dividing them into three groups: those with two or more rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis claims in the year prior to their death, those with one claim, and those with no claims of rheumatoid arthritis. The mean age upon cancer diagnosis was 76 years old.

Little difference was observed in mortality rates in those with colorectal and lung cancers also suffering from RA, which both carried a particularly short lifespan after diagnosis. Breast and prostate cancer, however, saw an increase in mortality between 40% and 50%, with a mean lifespan difference of roughly two years less for each, against those with the same cancer diagnosis but no reports of rheumatoid arthritis.

Because the study focused on one state (and its elderly patients), the researchers believe more information is needed before drawing a direct link. Additional exploration in the future could focus on whether these findings relate to comorbidity, or to the interactions between the varying treatments used for two prolific, very different, very serious health conditions.