Non-melanoma Skin Cancers in Patients on Hydroxyurea for Philadelphia Chromosome-Negative Myeloproliferative Neoplasms: A Systematic Review

Cureus. 2021 Aug 7;13(8):e16978. doi: 10.7759/cureus.16978. eCollection 2021 Aug.


Hydroxyurea (HU) or hydroxycarbamide is a cytotoxic antimetabolite widely used to treat Philadelphia chromosome-negative Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (Ph-MPN) like Polycythemia Vera (PV), Essential Thrombocythemia (ET), and Primary Myelofibrosis (PMF). Patients with Ph-MPN are at an increased risk of Non-melanoma skin cancers (NMSC). The cause of this finding remains uncertain. In this systematic review, we would like to know if chronic use of HU in this population is responsible for the sudden onset of NMSC. The results obtained will help the patients and clinicians with early diagnosis of cutaneous lesions and in optimizing the current treatment options for MPN. We conducted a multi-database literature search, applied eligibility criteria and quality assessment tools to the studies extracted, with an intention to include only fair to high-quality articles. We analyzed six observational studies and four traditional reviews. Two out of 10 studies concluded that no relationship exists between the incidence of NMSC and HU. The remaining eight studies indicated the association. According to these studies, the possible risk factors include old age, excessive exposure to sunlight, higher doses, and prolonged HU therapy duration. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation and HU play a combined role in carcinogenesis. Periodic dermatologic screening is essential in these patients. Prompt biopsy and accurate diagnosis can prevent the progression of cancer and decrease the associated morbidity and mortality. True incidence and causation cannot be ascertained due to the scarcity of research on this topic. Multi-center prospective studies in large groups of Ph-MPN patients are recommended to determine the temporal relationship between NMSC and HU treatment.

Keywords: basal cell carcinoma; hydroxyurea; myeloproliferative neoplasms; philadelphia chromosome negative; skin cancers; squamous cell carcinoma.

Publication types

  • Review