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The risk for the patients with RA to develop lymphoma

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory joint disease which was proved to have a strong connection with lymphoma.Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymph nodes. The traget of the treatment in RA is to lower pain and to prevent the disease from worsening. this link between the two diseases is considered by many specialists when establishing the appropriate treatment in RA.

There have been made a lot of studies in order to justify the association between chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and malignant lymphomas.

RA manifests as a gradual deterioration of the tissues surrounding the joints, leading to pain and difficulty when moving the affected fingers, elbows and knees. This happens because the patient's own immune system attacks cells around the joints.

RA is diagnosed more often in women and it leads to lymphoma more often in men. This is why it is believed that most people with RA will never develop lymphoma.

There are different stages of RA. We can speak about a low stage or degree of RA, a moderate and a severe one. This classification is made after the number of joints which are affected. There is also a link between the stage of the RA and the risk for the patients to develop lymphoma. If there are less than 6 joints affected the patient can be diagnosed with a low degree of RA; between 6 and 20 joints affected, there is a moderate RA and over 20 joints affected there is a severe stage of RA.

The patients with a low degree of RA have the lowest risk of developing malignant lymphoma, while those with a moderate and severe level of RA have the highest risk of developing this type of cancer.

There is no connection between the medication used to treat RA and the development of lymphoma. The standard treatment in RA includes methotrexate, anti-malarial agents, oral steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and aspirin.

But there are some new treatments which include anti-TNF-alpha drugs which seem to increase the risk for the patients with RA to develop lymphoma.

There are no studies that can prove which kind of RA treatment can reduce the risk of developing lymphoma.
So as it is not very clear what drugs or which of the stages of the RA increases the risk to develop lymphoma, it is very important for the patients to understand the phenomenon and to ask the doctor for help to lower the risk.

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