JOURNAL ARTICLE

Effects of chronic exposure of hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine on the risk of cancer, metastasis, and death: a population-based cohort study on patients with connective tissue diseases

L Fardet, I Nazareth, I Petersen
Clinical Epidemiology 2017, 9: 545-554
29138600

Background: Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine may reduce the risk of cancer as they inhibit autophagy, in particular, in people with connective tissue diseases.

Methods: The hazard ratios of cancers, metastases, and death were assessed in adults with connective tissue diseases prescribed hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine for at least 1 year in comparison with unexposed individuals with the same underlying conditions. A competing risk survival regression analysis was performed. Data were extracted from the Health Improvement Network UK primary care database.

Results: Eight thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine individuals exposed to hydroxychloroquine (98.6%) or chloroquine (1.4%) and 24,118 unexposed individuals were included in the study (median age: 56 [45-66] years, women: 76.8%). When compared to the unexposed group, individuals exposed to hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine were not at lower risk of non-skin cancers (adjusted sub-distribution hazard ratio [sHR]: 1.04 [0.92-1.18], p =0.54), hematological malignancies (adjusted sHR: 1.00 [0.73-1.38], p =0.99), or skin cancers (adjusted sHR: 0.92 [0.78-1.07], p =0.26). The risk of metastasis was not significantly different between the two groups. However, it was significantly lower during the exposure period when compared with the unexposed (adjusted sHR: 0.64 [0.44-0.95] for the overall population and 0.61 [0.38-1.00] for those diagnosed with incident cancers). The risk of death was also significantly lower in those exposed to hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine (adjusted HR: 0.90 [0.81-1.00] in the overall population and 0.78 [0.64-0.96] in those diagnosed with incident cancer).

Conclusion: Individuals on long-term exposure to hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine are not at lower risk of cancer. However, hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine may lower the risk of metastatic cancer and death.

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