Certain arthritis medications known as "TNF [tumor necrosis factor] blockers" may treat rheumatoid arthritis, but they also may increase the risk for lymphoma, according to the results of a recent study from Lund University Hospital in Sweden. TNF is a naturally occurring protein made by the immune system. Certain types of arthritis-such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis-are associated with having too much TNF, which can contribute to pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Researchers analyzed data from 757 Swedish patients being treating with TNF blockers and compared the data with those of 800 patients being treated with conventional antirheumatic drugs. Follow-up data revealed that the TNF-blocker group had 16 tumors, 5 of which were lymphomas. In the conventional group, 69 tumors were identified, including 2 lymphomas. Data analysis showed that the patients treated with TNF blockers were almost 5 times as likely to develop lymphoma. Researchers note that the TNF blocker group had no increased risk for cancer overall.