#EULAR2016 – Study Suggests Women with Lupus May Be at Risk of Cervical Cancer

Malika Ammam, PhD avatar

by Malika Ammam, PhD |

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Lupus Awareness Month

An associated risk between lupus and cervical cancer has recently been confirmed in a study titled “Cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer in women with rheumatoid arthritis,” presented at the EULAR Congress 2016 June 8-11 in London.

Known as systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE, lupus is a condition characterized by chronic autoimmune attacks against healthy cells of the body that leads to a range of problems from inflammation to severe damage of the skin, joints, kidneys, heart, nervous system, and other organs.

SLE is caused by an unknown trigger, affecting individuals with genetic susceptibility and altered immune system. As with many other autoimmune conditions, women are more frequently affected by SLE than men at a rate of almost 9 to 1.

A growing body of research suggests that autoimmune diseases like lupus are linked to increased risk of developing certain types of cancer, including cervical cancer. However, conclusive evidence of the link between both diseases is not confirmed.

“Previous evidence that SLE or its treatment might increase the risk of cervical neoplasia has been inconclusive,” said lead investigator Hjalmar Wadström from the Department of Medicine Solna, Karolinska Institute in Sweden. “Our findings have confirmed that SLE is a risk factor for cervical malignancies, even after adjusting for important risk determinants such as previous cervical screening.”

In this study, the researchers compared the rate of cervical dysplasia or invasive cervical cancer among a group of women with SLE between the years 2006 to 2012. They found that women with lupus are two times more at risk of developing pre-malignant cervical changes and potentially cervical cancer than women without lupus.

After adjusting a set of parameters (age, sex, education, healthcare history, number of children, marital status, family history of cervical cancer, and prior cervical screening), they further found that  women treated with immunosuppressant based medications are at higher risk for cervical cancers when compared to those  treated with antimalarial without additional immunosuppressive drugs. The risks of cervical dysplasia at various stages of disease severity were similar but the comparison was limited in terms of numbers of events and follow-ups.

They concluded that women with lupus should be subjected to regular cervical screening as a measure of prevention of cervical cancer or related disease.