Skin cancer link to biologics?

Hi all,
I’ve been diagnosed with PSA since 1974, been on a variety of meds, including biologics. For the past couple of years I’ve been on Cimzia which has helped keep the PSA at bay however within the past year I’ve had 8 or 9 instances of basal cell carcinoma, all requiring either excision or MOHS. The research I’ve found about a link between biologics and skin cancer has been conflicting. My rheumatologist is a bit concerned but not too much as I have not been diagnosed with melanoma. Has anyone else had an uptick in skin cancers since taking a biologic? How did you handle weighing the benefits/risks of staying on the biologic?
Thanks for sharing your experience!

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Hello again! This is something I would like to understand better.

It would help if my dermatologist was capable of communicating. I kind of like her, and boy is she good at biopsies, but putting words together isn’t her strong point. I have a few Actinic Keratoses, one was suspect / biopsied & all I gathered from rapid-fire feedback over the phone (appointments suspended due to Coronavirus) was that it’s not cancerous but is dodgy in some un-specified way as I have SEVERE SUN DAMAGE (shouted loudly at me, no further info. forthcoming). I also have a whole load of the other crusty thingies - the most benign ones.

I’m staying out of the sun and keeping my fingers crossed. Biologics changed everything else for the better, that’s for sure. But I am someone who needs to know things too.


Hi Robin.

I’m so sorry to learn of your repeated experiences with basal cell carcinoma.

I have extremely fair skin and have several keratoses on my arms and legs. Each year, they are treated by dermatologist. It appears we had missed one that has now turned ugly.

I have taken numerous biologics and have been on Simponi for approximately five years. From the beginning, my gastroenterologist advised me to watch for abnormal skin growths. (Sigh). My dermatologist has been aggressive in removing all spots that are raised and scaly.

It seems psoriatic arthritis and its treatment have far-reaching effects. Personally, I am vigilant when it comes to monitoring my skin–and yet, that hasn’t proven to be fool-proof. Has anyone aware if there are alternate treatments for psoriatic arthritis that don’t have similar effects?


Also diagnosed w the same, before being put on biologics

We have a lot of similar issues @letizia.

By ‘the same stuff’ do you mean actinic keratoses or ‘severe sun damage’? I realise that the latter is not a diagnosis though the derm spoke as if it was, which left me puzzled.

@Pixie, are you talking actinic keratoses or seborrheic keratoses? I realise that while both need watching they are usually no big deal. Yet the seborrheic ones are my preferred option, ugly as they are, as they are the most benign of all.

When (!) normal life returns I’m going to get an appointment with a private dermatologist i.e. pay for the honour of more than 10 minutes of their time. I want a trained pair of eyes to inspect all my skin lesions.

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I’ve been on Enbrel then Humira for about 4 years. Symptoms of PsA have been at bay. I had a basal cell carcinoma below the belt (no sun, ok, little sun) which was removed last year. I’m convinced that it is biologic related. My opinion is that the trade-off is worth it. Just gotta be vigilant.

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It’s one of those weird issues where some people seem to get them alot, and other people don’t get them at all. But one thing that is perhaps worth remembering is that a recent prediction was that 50% of the population in the US and Europe are likely to get skin cancer at some point in their lives. So, while I’m not saying it isn’t the biologic, I think it’s also easy to blame it for such things when it might have nothing to do with it.

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Right! I’m questioning the biological because there is zero history of cancer in my family,we all are outdoorsy people, and I’ve had 10 occurrences in the past 2 years. At this point the cost/benefit ratio is Iffy, but I’ll wait til this last surgery site heals before changing anything. :slight_smile:

Thanks for your insight!

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The first , possibly also the second, will get check up all the best to all

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But you might find that being ‘outdoorsy’ is the main reason why.

Oh, just my kind of topic! :see_no_evil:
I would say both are true, outdoor UV sun damage of cells and some of the biologics have a tendency to make the skin cancer more prolific, if that is the right word. At least this is what my Dermatologist told me. As some of you know I have had several skin cancers, and I would say in my case, probably would have gotten mine with or without the help of Biologics. I have been burned so many times, both physically ( and mentally😂) that my nose stopped peeling when I was 13 years old.

Take away from it, I don’t think skin cancer is a reason to avoid taking biologics, but it is certainly a reason to get skin checks regularly from a Dermatologist, if you have been in the sun! :sunglasses: