Multiple sclerosis drug linked to colorectal cancer risk, MS raises breast cancer risk

Multiple sclerosis drugA multiple sclerosis drug is associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer, while multiple sclerosis (MS) on its own raises the risk of breast cancer. The drug mitoxantrone was first developed as a chemotherapy drug for certain cancers, and is now used for multiple sclerosis patients. Mitoxantrone is prescribed to patients when other multiple sclerosis drugs are unsuccessful. Its use is limited, as other studies have shown it increases the risk of leukemia and heart damage.

The recent study looked at multiple sclerosis patients who were taking the drug. It was found that 5.5 percent of patients developed cancer – breast cancer, colon cancer, and acute myeloid leukemia.


The rate of leukemia was 10 times greater in those taking mitoxantrone than in the general population of Germany where the study was held. Colon cancer rates were three times greater than in the general population, while breast and other forms of cancer were of the same rate as in the general population.

Study author Mathias Buttmann said, “Despite an increased risk of acute myeloid leukemia and colorectal cancer, the overall rate of cancer was low enough to justify still using this drug for people severely affected by MS if no better treatment is available. Mitoxantrone is the only approved treatment for people with secondary progressive MS without relapses and should be considered in people where the disease is evolving quickly. Also, many of the new and highly effective MS drugs are not available to people in a number of countries for economic reasons, so mitoxantrone is being used for people with very active relapsing forms of the disease.”

The new study was relatively small, so a larger study must be conducted to confirm results. He suggests colonoscopies should be done for patients on mitoxantrone to monitor colon cancer risk, so that treatment can begin early on and reduce the risk of death.

Multiple sclerosis is a risk factor for breast cancer

Multiple sclerosis is a risk factor for breast cancer, according to a Taiwan study. Previous studies found that patients with the autoimmune disease may have an increased risk of cancer, but there hasn’t been a study done on the association between multiple sclerosis and cancer until now.

The researchers assessed data from the National Health Insurance System of Taiwan and looked at patients diagnosed with multiple sclerosis matched with healthy controls.

Lead researcher Li-Min Sun said, “Our study was a nationwide population-based cohort study, and it revealed unexpected findings.” The researchers found that multiple sclerosis patients were 85 percent more likely to develop cancer. Breast cancer risk was particularly high with a twofold increase compared to the controls.

Dr. Sun concluded, “The underlying genetic and environmental factors in Taiwan, which differ from those of western countries, might play an undetermined role. Additional large-scale studies will help improve our understanding.”

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Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.