Increased Risk of Malignancy with Immunosuppression: A Population-Based Analysis of Texas Medicare Beneficiaries

Luca Cicalese, Jordan R. Westra, Casey M. O’Connor, Yong Fang Kuo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Immunosuppressive drugs (IMD) are widely utilized to treat many autoimmune conditions and to prevent rejection in organ transplantation. Cancer has been associated with prolonged use of IMD in transplant patients. However, no detailed, systematic analysis of the risk of cancer has been performed in patients receiving IMD for any condition and duration. We analyzed Medicare data from Texas Medicare beneficiaries, regardless of their age, between 2007 and 2018, from the Texas Cancer Registry. We analyzed the data for the risk of cancer after IMD use associated with demographic characteristics, clinical conditions, and subsequent cancer type. Of 29,196 patients who used IMD for a variety of indications, 5684 developed cancer. The risk of cancer (standardized incidence ratio) was particularly high for liver (9.10), skin (7.95), lymphoma (4.89), and kidney (4.39). Patients receiving IMD had a four fold greater likelihood of developing cancer than the general population. This risk was higher within the first 3 years of IMD utilization and in patients younger than 65 years and minorities. This study shows that patients receiving IMD for any indications have a significantly increased risk of cancer, even with short-term use. Caution is needed for IMD use; in addition, an aggressive neoplastic diagnostic screening is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3144
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • cancer
  • immunosuppression
  • immunosuppressive drugs
  • kidney cancer
  • liver cancer
  • lymphoma
  • skin cancer
  • transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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