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Lymphoma incidence declined in rheumatoid arthritis patients

Key clinical point: Incidence of lymphoma decreased steadily between a 2003-2005 cohort and a 2012-2014 cohort of adults with rheumatoid arthritis, but not in a comparison group of osteoarthritis patients.

Major finding: The incidence of lymphoma among RA patients was 2.0 per 1,000 person-years for those diagnosed during 2003-2005, compared with 1.5 per 1,000 person-years for those diagnosed with RA during 2012-2014.

Study details: The data come from 43,776 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and a comparison group of 79,772 osteoarthritis patients identified through the Veterans Health Administration network.

Disclosures: The study was supported by the American Cancer Society. The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose.


“The association between RA and lymphoma is well-known, with prior studies suggesting association in lymphoma risk with higher disease activity. At the same time, concern has been raised about the risk of lymphoma related to biologic agents such as TNF inhibitors due to reduced immunosurveillance. In this large study of patients in the VA database, lymphoma incidence was studied patients diagnosed with RA from 2003-2014 within 6 years of follow-up and compared to the incidence in patients with OA.

Interestingly, the incidence of lymphoma averaged over 2-year intervals in patients diagnosed with RA, but the remained steady in patients with OA. The authors speculate that this finding may be related to better control of RA and reduced inflammation with treatment advances, though the study cannot identify causes. It does, however, provide reassuring evidence as to the safety of biologic medications for RA with respect to development of lymphoma.”

Arundathi Jayatilleke, MD

Lewis Katz School of Medicine, Temple University


Singh N et al. RMD Open. 2020 June 17. doi: 10.1136/rmdopen-2020-001241.