Vancouver, BC – Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients appear to have a lower cancer risk, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health. Published online in the journal Brain, the study is the first to investigate overall cancer risk in MS patients in North America.
Elaine Kingwell, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral fellow in the UBC Faculty of Medicine and Brain Research Centre at UBC and VCH Research Institute said, “Not only did MS patients have a lower overall cancer risk, the risk for colorectal cancer in particular was significantly lower.”
The researchers compared the diagnoses of cancer in MS patients in British Columbia with those of the general population. While they found that MS patients have a lower risk in general for cancer – and in particular for colorectal cancer – they found that the risks for brain cancer and bladder cancer were slightly elevated (albeit not significantly). In patients with relapsing-onset MS, the risk for non-melanoma skin cancer was significantly greater. Further studies will be needed to understand the reasons for this reduced overall cancer risk.
An unexpected finding was that for those who did develop cancer, tumour size tended to be larger at time of diagnosis. More work is needed to determine why some tumours might be caught later in people with MS.
This study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.