Closely Monitor Patients with Polycythemia Vera for These Two Cancers

By Annette M. Boyle, /alert Contributor
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A new study revealed the most common cancers associated with polycythemia vera at the 2018 American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting.

Previous research indicated an increased risk of malignancies in patients with polycythemia vera (PV). REVEAL, a large observational study of patients with PV in the United States, demonstrated that female patients with PV have twice the risk of developing breast cancer compared to the general population. Men with PV have 4.5 times the risk of developing prostate cancer.


Doctor with clipboard talking to patient. Source: Getty

The REVEAL study enrolled 2485 PV patients over the age of 18 and followed them for up to three years. Patients continued their usual care throughout the study. The researchers, led by Anas Al-Janadi, MD, of Michigan State University’s Breslin Cancer Center in East Lansing, MI, calculated standardized incidence ratios relative to the National Program of Cancer Registries (2010-2014) for several malignancies.

Prior to diagnosis with PV, 170 patients had a diagnosis of a malignancy. Breast cancer was the most common, affecting 1.5% of patients, followed by prostate cancer (1.3%), colorectal cancer (0.8%) and melanoma (0.8%).

Between PV diagnosis and data cutoff on May 18, 2017, an additional 159 patients or 6.9% of the entire cohort who had not previously had cancer developed a malignancy. Non-melanoma skin cancer occurred most frequently, followed by prostate and colorectal cancer. Patients received the cancer diagnoses from one to seven years after their PV diagnoses.

While breast and prostate cancer arose in PV patients at rates much higher than in the general population, colorectal cancer occurred at 20% less frequently than in the general population.

The large study also determined that 1.3% of PV patients experienced disease transformation to leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes or myelofibrosis.