Objective: To determine the short-term and medium-term risks of cancer in patients receiving anti-tumor necrosis factor alpha (anti-TNFalpha) therapies that have proven effective in the treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions.
Methods: By linking together data from the Swedish Biologics Register, Swedish registers of RA, and the Swedish Cancer Register, we identified and analyzed for cancer occurrence a national cohort of 6,366 patients with RA who first started anti-TNF therapy between January 1999 and July 2006. As comparators, we used a national biologics-naive RA cohort (n = 61,160), a cohort of RA patients newly starting methotrexate (n = 5,989), a cohort of RA patients newly starting disease-modifying antirheumatic drug combination therapy (n = 1,838), and the general population of Sweden. Relative risks (RRs) were estimated using Cox regression analyses, examining overall RR as well as RR by time since the first start of anti-TNF therapy, by the duration of active anti-TNF therapy, and by the anti-TNF agent received.
Results: During 25,693 person-years of followup in 6,366 patients newly starting anti-TNF, 240 first cancers occurred, yielding an RR of 1.00 (95% confidence interval 0.86-1.15) versus the biologics-naive RA cohort, and similar RRs versus the other 2 RA comparators. RRs did not increase with increasing time since the start of anti-TNF therapy, nor with the cumulative duration of active anti-TNF therapy. During the first year following the first treatment start, but not thereafter, dissimilar cancer risks for adalimumab, etanercept, and infliximab were observed.
Conclusion: During the first 6 years after the start of anti-TNF therapy in routine care, no overall elevation of cancer risk and no increase with followup time were observed.