Both squamous cell carcinoma (skin cancer) and lymphoma (cancer that affects the immune system) are health risks some psoriasis patients face, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Different studies have revealed that people with psoriasis may have triple the normal risk of lymph cancer. But whether this is due to the skin disease itself, or its treatment, is still unknown.
Psoriasis and Cancer: Psoriasis Treatments
Is the increased rate of cancer a complication of psoriasis treatments? Is it the patient’s own immune system? Researchers have hypothesized that the increased rate of cancer may be due to the combination of treatments (like immunosuppressants that are used in some psoriasis treatments) and the disease itself. But the real cause is still unclear.
Which psoriasis treatments might increase the risk of cancer?
- PUVA treatment: A treatment called PUVA (ultraviolet light A used with a light-sensitive drug called psoralen) is the most clear-cut psoriasis treatment associated with developing cancer, said Dr. Mark Lebwohl, dermatology chairman of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
- TNF-alpha blockers: TNF-alpha blockers are associated with an increase in certain kinds of lymphoma, Dr. Lebwohl said. TNF-alpha blockers suppress a protein in the immune system called tumor necrosis factor-alpha, which is believed to play a role in the development of psoriasis.
Are natural treatments a safer solution?
In most cases it is possible to help heal skin without using harmful chemicals that can have many side-effects. Even if the success rates of natural psoriasis treatments are difficult to measure, there is no doubt that some alternative psoriasis treatment types do work. Some treatments may benefit one person and not another, and it may take time to see improvements. Natural therapies generally work more slowly, but with fewer side effects than drugs.
Because the increased rate of lymphoma may be related to psoriasis treatment, natural therapies should be considered – always keeping in mind that “natural” does not guarantee safety of all natural remedies. This is why everybody should seek consultation from a doctor before trying any natural treatments.
Psoriasis and Cancer: Other Factors that May Influence the Risk
Some other possibilities that might increase the risk of developing cancer include:
- Age: Older psoriasis patients (older than age 65) may have a slightly higher risk of developing lymphoma than younger psoriasis patients.
- Severity of the skin disease: People with more severe cases of psoriasis may be at a greater risk of future lymphoma than people with milder cases.
While many studies have linked a higher risk of lymphoma in patients with severe psoriasis or older psoriasis patients, the actual cause of the cancer still remains unclear. “We don’t know which one is exactly right,” said Dr. Ken Gordon, a dermatologist at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare in Skokie, Ill.
The scientists now want to conduct further studies into whether the increased rate of lymphoma is related to psoriasis severity, psoriasis treatment, or a combination of them all.
Psoriasis and Cancer: How to Reduce Risks
Risk reduction is taking action to reduce your individual risk of developing cancer. There are some risk factors that cannot be changed such as age and family heredity. But there are also risks that can be increased or decreased by the lifestyle choices you make or the kind of environment you live in.
The best thing you can also do for your health is to avoid high-risk behaviors that increase the risk of developing some cancers, such as:
- Smoking and alcohol abuse: Years of research have proven that smoking and alcohol greatly increase the risk of cancer. Also, tobacco and alcohol together are worse for you than either one on its own.
- Too much sun exposure: Although sunlight is important for good health and can also improve psoriasis, there is no safe way to get a tan. Tanning beds and sun lamps are not a safe alternative. The more you use tanning beds and sun lamps, the greater your risk of getting skin cancer.
- Poor diet and lack of physical activity: Staying at a healthy body weight and limiting the amount of toxins in your body reduces your risk of cancer. Give preference to food grown without pesticides, chemical fertilizers and growth hormones.
- Personal skin care products: According to EWG‘s research, 22 percent of all personal care products, including those made for children’s use, may contain the cancer-causing contaminant 1,4-Dioxane, and more than half of all sunscreens contain oxybenzone, a potential hormone disruptor. Other studies have raised serious concerns about lead in lipsticks, secret chemicals in fragrance and artificial preservatives in personal care products.
While knowing that there may be a link between lymphoma risk and psoriasis may cause feelings of anxiety, keep in mind that some people who are at higher risk for cancer may never have it. What matters is what to do to lower that risk in everyday basis. Making healthier choices will not only reduce your risk for disease, but will also make you feel better and improve your overall quality of life.