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MTX and risk of skin cancers with sun exposure

Hi everyone.. I've heard taking MTX can cause various skin cancers with sun exposure, and I'm worried about how high is the risk of skin cancers from sun exposure while taking MTX, and how essential is it that I cover up in the sun?

-Also, is it essential for me to wear sunglasses to protect my eyes in the sun, due to taking MTX..??

Thanks for any advice!

6 Replies

Hi jimmx,

I think with all DMARDS, especially MTX and sulfasalazine, it causes sensitivity to the sun.

I think with all RA meds in general there is an increase risk with all cancer, especially because of lowering our immune system to the point of where it isn't fighting off anything. That's why with many biologics, they warn that it has caused certain cancers such as lymphoma.


The DMARDs compromise our immune systems very slightly, and biologics a bit more. They don't lower it to the level you suggest. If they did we would all be living in plastic bubbles, or getting septicaemia from paper cuts and so on.

The sad increase in things like lymphomas is a different mechanism as you don't catch lymphoma, is the way the drugs alter the mechanics of cell development in our bodies that can make some people more susceptible.

Sorry to sound a bit pedantic, but there are enough horror stories floating around without adding more fear.


I’m prone to skin cancers anyway and I was worried when I started taking Mxt 3 years ago. I haven’t had any further non melanoma ones surgically removed since but I have noticed a lot of keratosis ( dried red patches which get a bit sore) . Mostly it is fine and I do sunbathe a bit as I love the sun and the beach. I use factor 30 minimum.

My skin is definitely more sensitive to the sun than before and I have to be careful. If I’m out and about and forget to put sunscreen on my face I’ll really know about later.

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I think it is a case of taking sensible measures in everyday life. My optician told me to wear sunglass to prevent cataracts, so taking responsibility and care of our bodies should be the norm.


I hadn't heard that specifically or about the sunglasses, but are you talking about sun bathing sun exposure, cos that's bad for everyone! Have you spoken to your rheumy nurses or dr about your worries?

I take leflunomde now after 6 years on MTX, I don't go out in the sun much anyway but I went to Arizona this year, hard to avoid the sun there and I did get a rash which lasted 3 months although it was decided I was allergic to something I'd eaten. Trouble is, all these drugs are toxic and finding the balance of what you're body will tolerate and react to is a question of try it and see I think. To lose the pain of RA I am prepared to put up with some unpleasant side effects, not life threatening ones obviously.

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Thanks everyone for your comments, really useful info. I hate these 'orrible drugs we have to have!


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