Cancer risks of dermatomyositis and polymyositis: a nationwide cohort study in Taiwan

Arthritis Res Ther. 2010;12(2):R70. doi: 10.1186/ar2987. Epub 2010 Apr 16.


Introduction: The association of idiopathic inflammatory myositis (IIM) and malignancies has been reported, but rarely in Asian countries. Our aim was to investigate the risk of cancer among IIM patients without a prior history of malignancies, in Taiwan.

Methods: We conducted a nationwide cohort study of 1,012 patients with dermatomyositis (DM) and 643 patients with polymyositis (PM), but without prior history of malignancies, utilizing the National Health Insurance Database from 1997 to 2007. Standardized incidence ratios (SIRs) of cancers were analyzed.

Results: A total of 95 cancers (9.4%) in DM and 33 cancers (4.4%) in PM were identified. Overall cancer risk was significantly elevated in DM patients (SIR = 5.11, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 5.01 to 5.22) and PM patients (SIR = 2.15, 95% CI = 2.08 to 2.22). Most cancers were detected in the first year of observation. The risk of cancer decreased with observation time, yet remained elevated compared with the general population in both study groups after 5 years of follow-up. DM was associated with sustained elevated risk of cancers in every age group, whereas the risk of cancer in PM was highest in younger patients and decreased with age. DM patients were at the greatest risk of cancers of the nasopharynx, lungs and hematopoietic malignancies.

Conclusions: Patients with IIM are at increased risk for cancer and should receive age-appropriate and gender-appropriate malignancy evaluations, with additional assessment for nasopharyngeal, lung and hematologic malignancy following diagnosis, and with continued vigilance for development of cancers in follow-up.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Databases, Factual
  • Dermatomyositis / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Polymyositis / epidemiology*
  • Taiwan / epidemiology
  • Young Adult