MS patients have lower risk of cancer

21 June 2012

Three MSFHR-funded researchers participated in a recently-published study that indicates cancer risk may be lower for people with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Dr. Elaine Kingwell (2002 MSFHR Research Trainee and 2011 MSFHR Research Trainee Award, Post-Doctoral Fellow), Dr. Helen Tremlett (2007 MSFHR Scholar), Dr. Chris Bajdik (2002 MSFHR Scholar, 2007 MSFHR Senior Scholar),and team investigated the risk of cancer in people with MS compared to the general population. They used data collected from 6,820 patients registered with a BC MS clinic over a 25-year period, and linked it to BC Cancer Agency, BC Vital Statistics and BC Ministry of Health data.

The researchers looked for any malignant cancer diagnosed after the onset of MS and then compared the number of cancers to those in the general BC population. Findings revealed that people with MS were less likely to be diagnosed with cancer than expected, and the risk of colorectal cancer was particularly reduced. However, tumours in people with MS were somewhat larger than expected at diagnosis. This suggests that the lower cancer risk for people with MS might be explained, in part, by a delay in the diagnosis of cancer. While the overall reduction in cancer risk is potentially good news for people with MS, patients and physicians should be aware of the possibility that cancers might sometimes be overlooked in MS.

Published in Brain, Oxford University Press: Cancer risk in Multiple Sclerosis: findings from British Columbia, Canada.

Additional information available through UBC's media release.