Cancer and Scleroderma

Author: Shelley Ensz. Scleroderma is highly variable. See Types of Scleroderma. Read Disclaimer
Breast Cancer
Cervical Cancer
Gastrointestinal Tract Cancer
Liver Cancer
Lung Cancer
Malignant Atrophic Papulosis/Degos
MALT Lymphoma
Medications and Cancer
Myeloma (Bone Marrow Cancer)
Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
Ovarian Cancer
Thyroid Cancer
T Cell Lymphoma
Tongue and Oral Cancer
Personal Stories


Regular cancer screening is recommended for people who have systemic sclerosis due to 75% increased risk.

Cancer KaleidoscopeSystemic sclerosis (scleroderma) may be associated with an increased incidence of cancer, including breast cancer, B-cell lymphoma, lung cancer and tongue cancer. (Also see Autoimmune Diseases)

Just because someone has cancer does not mean that they also have scleroderma, nor does it mean that someone with scleroderma will inevitably acquire cancer. Scleroderma affects everyone differently and there is no predictable course of the illness, either in its severity, progression or outcome. However, there is an increased risk of cancer in those who have systemic scleroderma, as documented in the research articles below. (Also see Types of Scleroderma, Associated Conditions, and Causes of Scleroderma)

Fast food may expose consumers to phthalates. People who eat a lot of fast food may be exposed to higher amounts of certain chemicals in plastics that are believed to disrupt human hormones and possibly cause cancer, according to a U.S. study. Reuters Health, 04/13/2016.

Researchers Find a Way to Light Up Cancer Cells. Detecting every cancer cell in a tumor is the best way to keep cancer from coming back and now scientists say they can tease out those cells by making them glow. Time Healthland, 01/07/2016.

The Kind of Cancer That May Not Need Chemo. More cancers are being treated with new anti-cancer drugs that allow patients to do without chemo. Time Healthland, 12/06/2015.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Notable Biomarkers Linking to Chronic Systemic Conditions and Cancer. Due to the complex nature of the disease, the appearance of symptoms and markers vary amongst individuals and the connections may manifest only in part. PubMed, Curr Pharm Des, 12/09/2015. (Also see Diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis)

Cancer and scleroderma (SSc): a paraneoplastic disease with implications for malignancy screening. Aggressive malignancy screening in SSc patients may aid in early cancer detection and further study is required to determine whether cancer therapy could improve scleroderma outcomes in this patient population. PubMed, Curr Opin Rheumatol, 2015 Nov;27(6):563–70.

How are cancer and connective tissue diseases (CTDs) related to sarcoidosis? The association between sarcoidosis and both cancer and CTDs may yield important insights into the immunopathogenesis of all three diseases. PubMed, Curr Opin Pulm Med, 2015 Sep;21(5):517-24. (Also see Connective Tissue Disease and Sarcoidosis)

How our body defences ‘can block chemo’. Some tumours are being protected against chemotherapy by cancer patients’ own immune systems, researchers have found. Mail Online, 08/13/2015.

Vulnerable populations often miss cancer warning signs. Some of society’s most vulnerable citizens are also most likely to overlook cancer warning signs, a new U.K. study suggests. Reuters Health, 07/24/2015.

Cancer Risk Factors in Patients With Scleroderma. Increased age at scleroderma onset was strongly associated with cancer risk. Medscape, 06/15/2015.

Smoking Causes 12 Different Kinds of Cancers. Everyone knows smoking can cause lung cancer, but it also causes a whole array of other varieties of the disease, from pancreatic cancer to leukemia. Time Healthland, 06/15/2015.

Exercise tied to prostate cancer survival. Among men with prostate cancer, those who lead active lifestyles have better survival rates than those who don’t. Reuters, 12/22/2014.

Comparison of cancer incidence among patients with rheumatic disease (RD): a retrospective cohort study. Different RDs are associated with particular cancers and thus, cancer surveillance tailored to specific RD might be beneficial. PubMed, Arthritis Res Ther, 2014 Aug 28;16(5):428.

Prediabetes Increases Cancer Risk By 15%. A new study published in Diabetologia shows a link between prediabetes and cancer, especially in the liver, stomach, pancreas, breast, and endometrium. Time Healthland, 09/06/2014. (Also see Diabetes)

The war on cancer may NEVER be won: Cure could be impossible because the disease is so highly evolved. Cancer is as old as the earliest life on earth and may never be completely wiped out, scientists have warned. Mail Online, 08/22/2014.

Sitting Can Increase Your Risk of Cancer By Up to 66%. For a change, the cancer-promoter isn't something you eat or breathe, but something you do every day. Time Healthland, 06/17/2014.

New therapies raise hope for a breakthrough in tackling cancer. Immune-checkpoint blockade is a form of immunotherapy, meaning it aims to help the patient's own immune system fight cancer. Washington Post, 02/18/2014.

New evidence on how weight, diet and exercise can help reduce cancer risk. Common-sense lifestyle strategies for lowering the risk of heart disease and diabetes are now being shown to help prevent many types of cancer. Washington Post, 02/18/2014.

Association of the Autoimmune Disease Scleroderma with an Immunologic Response to Cancer. This offers an insight into the pathogenesis of scleroderma and provide support for the idea that acquired immunity helps control naturally occurring cancers. Science Express, 12/05/2013.

Cancer incidence in systemic sclerosis (SSc): Meta-analysis of population-based cohort studies. Systemic sclerosis is associated with an increased risk of cancer, particularly lung, liver, hematological and bladder cancer, though absolute risk is relatively low. Men with SSc are at higher cancer risk than women. PubMed, Arthritis Rheum, 2013 Apr 10.

Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) and cancer risk: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. The results for selected cancer sites indicated a strong association with lung cancer (RR 4.35; 95% CI 2.08, 9.09), and a significant increased risk also for haematological neoplasms. PubMed, Rheumatology (Oxford), 2013 Jan;52(1):143-54.

Angiosarcoma and Scleroderma

Angiosarcoma: A type of cancer that begins in the lining of blood vessels. This type of tumor tends to be aggressive, recur locally, and spread widely. It can originate anywhere in the body but is well known to arise in skin, soft tissue, liver, breast, spleen, bone, lung and heart.

(Case Report) Angiosarcoma arising in sclerodermatous skin. This is the first report of cutaneous angiosarcoma occurring in sclerodermatous skin. PubMed, Acta Dermatovenerol.

Autoantibodies and Cancer with Systemic Sclerosis

Examination of autoantibody status and clinical features that associate with cancer risk and cancer-associated scleroderma. Increased age at scleroderma onset is strongly associated with cancer risk overall. PubMed, Arthritis Rheumatol, 01/20/2015. (Also see Antibodies)

Breast Cancer

What Teen Girls Should Eat to Reduce Breast Cancer Risk. Eating more fruits from a younger age may help ward off cancer. Time Healthland, 05/11/2016.

The Dilemma of Breast Cancer Treatment and Existing Collagen Vascular Disease: A Case of Scleroderma and Review of the Literature. Early stage breast cancer in a patient with severe scleroderma is treated with breast–conserving surgery without radiation. PubMed, Breast J, 04/28/2016.

With cancer in one breast, no survival advantage in removing second one. The proportion of breast cancer patients who removed a healthy breast to prevent future cancers more than tripled over 10 years, but the procedure didn't improve their survival odds, a U.S. study finds. Reuters Health, 03/18/2016.

Eating a high-fiber diet as a teen may help prevent breast cancer later. A new study finds that women who ate more fiber in their late teens and 20s had a much lower risk of breast cancer later. Today Health, 02/01/2016.

New Mammogram Guidelines Already Creating Controversy. The American Cancer Society’s new breast cancer screening guidelines are likely to face some resistance within the medical community, based on early reaction. HealthDay, 10/22/2015.

Testing for more breast cancer genes offers useful information. New tests for breast cancer risk mutations beyond the well–known breast cancer genes would offer actionable information for many women and their doctors, a new study finds. Reuters Health, 08/13/2015.

Fatigue screening in breast cancer patients: identifying likely cases of cancer-related fatigue (CRF). Breast cancer patients and survivors meeting CRF diagnostic criteria can be accurately identified using brief screening indices derived from common self-report fatigue measures. PubMed, Psycho–Oncology, 07/29/2015. (Also see Fatigue)

Obese Older Women Stuck With Higher Breast Cancer Risk? Overweight and obese postmenopausal women were at increased risk for invasive breast cancer, but losing weight didn’t reduce that risk. MedPage Today, 06/12/2015.

Can the Cancer-related Fatigue Case-definition Criteria Be Applied to Chronic Medical Illness? A Comparison between Breast Cancer and Systemic Sclerosis. Harmonized definitions and measurement of clinically significant fatigue will advance research and clinical management of fatigue in rheumatic diseases and other conditions. PubMed, J Rheumatol, 06/01/2015. (Also see Fatigue)

All Breast Cancer Mutations Are Not Equal. When it comes to breast cancer risk, all mutations are not equal, researchers reported. NBC News, 04/07/2015.

Adherence to recommendations for cervical and breast cancer screening in systemic sclerosis. A very high percentage of SSc female patients adhered to programs for the early detection of cervical and breast cancer. PubMed, Reumatismo, 2015 Mar 31;66(4):264-9.

BMI linked to breast cancer risk after menopause. Overall body size, rather than shape, is a better indicator of breast cancer risk after menopause, according to a recent study. Reuters Health, 04/25/2014.

Half of women have needless operations for early breast cancer. The study found that in 49% of such cases, the mastectomy was either unnecessary or was being carried out because a previous operation had failed. The Telegraph, 03/21/2014.

Even With Metastatic Breast Cancer, Some Patients Should Say No to Surgery and Radiation. When it comes to cancer, sometimes less is more. Times Healthland, 12/11/2013.

Sequential Breast Regimen Passes Clinical Test. A potentially more heart-friendly sequential chemotherapy regimen for breast cancer proved as effective as the standard concurrent approach but with less cardiotoxicity. Med Page Today, 11/16/2013.

How Exercise May Lower Breast Cancer Risk. Breaking a sweat does more for your body than just trim your waistline. E.xercise may lower a woman's risk for breast cancer and researchers are finding out why. Times Healthline, 05/08/2013.

Alcohol Doesn't Affect Ability to Survive Breast Cancer. Breast cancer patients who raised a glass or two a week may even enjoy slightly longer lives than those who didn't drink. Time Healthland. 04/10/2013. (Also see Scleroderma Food Guide)

Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) and cancer risk: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. The relation with breast cancer, suggested in some previous epidemiological studies, was not confirmed. Rheumatology, 2013 Jan;52(1):143-54.

The risk of cancer development in systemic sclerosis: A meta-analysis. This meta-analysis demonstrated an increased risk of lung, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and hematopoietic cancers among patients with SSc, but not for breast cancer. PubMed, Cancer Epidemiol, 2013 May 28.

Diane M: MCTD, and Surviving Sister of Scleroderma Patient I do not know what lies ahead for me on this path, I only hope that I can be as strong as my sister was...

Cervical Cancer

A 2008 study found that there is a high prevalence of abnormal Pap smears among those with diffuse scleroderma. (Also see Diffuse Scleroderma)

Advaxis therapy improves survival rates in cervical cancer patients. Advaxis experimental cancer vaccine was found to be more effective in improving survival rates of cervical cancer patients than standard therapy. Reuters, 09/17/2015.

Docs suggest HPV screening first for cervical cancer. Two medical organizations have recommended testing for the human papillomavirus (HPV) to screen women for cervical cancer before using a Pap smear for screening. Reuters Health, 01/08/2015.

Gastrointestinal Tract Cancer

Autoimmune diseases increase the risk of gastrointestinal tract cancer.

Keyhole operation to fight off the colon cancer invading your liver. Doctors are trialling an innovative surgical technique to remove secondary cancers that have spread to the liver. Mail Online, 03/20/2016.

The Dreaded Turning-50 Test. One of the joys of turning 50 is that your doctor will start recommending a colonoscopy, which involves having a tube inserted into the rectum to look for cancers and precancers. New York Times, 03/24/2014.

Liver Cancer

There is an increased risk of liver cancer in systemic scleroderma patients. (Also see What is Scleroderma?)

Systemic Sclerosis. The most common cancers in systemic sclerosis were lung, liver, haematological and bladder cancers. Men are at higher risk than women for developing cancers. Nature Reviews Disease Primers, 04/23/2015. (Also see Liver Involvement)

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer can remain dormant for 20 YEARS before it grows and spreads rapidly. Lung cancer can remain dormant for 20 years before it is triggered into an aggressive form of the disease, a new study has warned. Mail Online, 10/09/2014.

Lung Cancer May Be Detected With a Thermometer. Detecting lung cancer may be as simple of taking the temperature of your exhaled breath, say researchers. Times Healthland, 09/08/2014.

Solitary organizing pneumonia (SOP) in systemic sclerosis (SSc) mimicking lung adenocarcinoma. SOP is often misdiagnosed and removed surgically as it is rare and difficult to distinguish from lung carcinoma. SOP should be considered when a solitary nodular lung lesion is noted in a patient with SSc. PubMed, Arthritis Rheumatol, 2014 Apr 22. (Also see Lung Involvement: Pneumonia)


(Case report) Primary Pulmonary Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma in Scleroderma. Clinicians should be aware of the increased risk for lymphoproliferative disorders, including pulmonary Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma in scleroderma patients. CHEST, 10/27/2015. (Also see Correlation of Pulmonary Fibrosis and Cancer)

Incidence of lymphoma associated with underlying lupus (SLE): Lessons learned from observational studies. Although the association of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in SLE is well established, risk factors attributing to this association are still not understood. PubMed, Curr Opin Rheumatol, 2014 Mar;26(2):111-7. (Also see Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Symptoms)

Lymphoma risk in systemic lupus: effects of disease activity versus treatment. There was a suggestion of higher lymphoma risk with exposure to cyclophosphamide and high cumulative steroids although disease activity itself was not clearly associated with lymphoma risk. PubMed, Ann Rheum Dis, 2014 Jan 1;73(1):138-42. (Also see Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Symptoms)

Malignant Atrophic Papulosis (MAP) or Degos Syndrome

(Case Report) Lesions resembling malignant atrophic papulosis in a patient with progressive systemic sclerosis (scleroderma). Malignant atrophic papulosis (MAP), or Degos syndrome, is a rare disorder of unknown etiology (cause). It is characterized by a deep subcutaneous vasculopathy resulting in atrophic, porcelain-white papules. PubMed, Cutis [2005]. (Also see Types of Scleroderma)

MALT Lymphoma

(Case Report) Systemic sclerosis and gastric MALT lymphoma. MALT (mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue) lymphomas are usually confined to the gastric wall. Gastric MALT lymphomas have a well-established association with H. pylori infection. Eradication of H. pylori is the mainstay of treatment. PubMed, Joint Bone Spine. (Also see Gastrointestinal Involvement)

Medications and Cancer

Gene Therapy for Cancer Shows Continued Progress. Researchers from University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia continue to present hopeful results from gene therapy for leukemia three years after starting clinical trials. Times Healthland, 12/09/2013.


Jury still out on routine skin cancer screening. There isn’t enough evidence yet to say whether routine full-body skin cancer screenings are safe or effective, according to new proposed U.S. guidelines aimed at preventing deaths from these malignancies. Reuters Health, 12/11/2015.

The Number of Moles on Your Right Arm Could Be Tied to Your Cancer Risk, Study Finds. Moles are usually harmless, but they can be used to assess a person’s risk for developing skin cancer. Time Healthland, 10/19/2015.

Blood Test Could Show If Skin Cancer Has Spread. A straightforward blood test could identify patients whose skin cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Times Healthland, 11/04/2013.

(Case Report) Jo-1 positive paraneoplastic systemic sclerosis in a patient with metastatic melanoma. This rare case of SSc concurrent with melanoma suggests that besides other possible mechanisms, paraneoplastic etiology (cause) can be responsible for the association between SSc and cancer. PubMed, Eur J Dermatol.

Myeloma (Bone Marrow Cancer)

Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) and autoimmune disorders (AD): Cause or consequence? Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) and Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia (CMML) are frequently associated with clinical manifestations of autoimmune disorders (AD) and inflammatory response of the immune system. PubMed, Best Pract Res Clin Haematol, 2013 Dec;26(4):327-36.

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

What are the risk factors for non-Hodgkin lymphoma? Some autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus), Sjogrens disease, celiac sprue (gluten-sensitive enteropathy), and others have been linked with an increased rate of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. American Cancer Society.

Laira: MCTD, Scleroderma, SLE, Lupus, CREST, Lymphoma I was just seventeen when I was told I had rheumatoid arthritis...

Ovarian Cancer

Irregular Periods May Raise Ovarian Cancer Risk, Study Finds. Women who had unpredictable cycles in their 20s were more likely to develop ovarian cancer decades later. NBC News, 04/21/2016.

T Cell Lymphoma

(Case Report) Angioimmunoblastic T cell lymphoma with an unusual proliferation of epstein-barr virus-associated large B cells arising in a patient with progressive systemic sclerosis. The cause was suggested to be closely associated with immunosuppressive treatment for progressive systemic sclerosis. PubMed, Acta Haematol. (Also see Causes of Scleroderma: Medications)

Thyroid Cancer

Increased risk of papillary thyroid cancer (TC) in systemic sclerosis associated with autoimmune thyroiditis. Patients with SSc have an increased risk of malignancy compared with the general population and these data suggest a high prevalence of papillary TC, in particular in the presence of thyroid autoimmunity. PubMed, Rheumatology (Oxford), 09/30/2015. (Also see Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases)

Tongue and Oral Cancers

A 2004 study showed that there is a highly significant increase in the incidence of squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue in patients with systemic sclerosis.

All scleroderma patients should be regularly screened for oral cancer.

Cancers of the Oral Mucosa. Immune defects may predispose to oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), especially lip cancer. OSCC is also now being reported with increased frequency in association with diabetes and systemic sclerosis. Medscape. (Also see Dental Involvement: Oral Cancers and Diabetes)

(Case Report) Tongue squamous cell carcinoma in a patient with systemic sclerosis. Periodic screening examinations are necessary to discover possible malignancies in primary stages in patients with systemic sclerosis. ResearchGate.


Rheumatic disorders as paraneoplastic syndromes. The long-established observation that some rheumatologic disorders (RDs) are associated with, or precede, the clinical manifestations of a variety of solid and hematological tumors represents an important clue for the early diagnosis and effective treatment of the cancers. PubMed, Autoimmun Rev, [2008].

Personal Stories of Cancer

Anna B: Morphea My morphea started as bruise-like marks on the backs of my legs about three years ago, after I had just fought cervical cancer and won...

Bri: Morphea Scleroderma I am currently waiting to have plastic surgery. They are going to do reverse liposuction; taking some fat and tissue from my left leg and then inject it into my right leg...

Buggzy: Autoimmune Hepatitis, Fibromyalgia, Undiagnosed I am really desperate to get some answers or to hear from others in the same boat as me...

Carrie: CREST Syndrome All this started in 1995, as far as receiving any diagnosis. First, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I went through radiation and chemotherapy...

Christin: Linear Scleroderma My name is Christin. I am a twenty-year-old college student. I have had scleroderma for as long as I can remember...

Craig R: CREST Scleroderma I had my first scleroderma symptoms at age twenty-two, which included severe Raynaud's with some ulceration and tissue loss...

Dwight: Surviving Son of Scleroderma Patient My dear mother, Drema L Shaver, passed away one year ago today...

Janice E: CREST/Fibromyalgia At some point I came to the realization that what I was feeling just could not be normal. By this time my hands were swelling...

Kellie: Overlap Scleroderma and Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD) I am so relieved to read about so many people who have had the same experiences...

Kym: Diffuse, CREST Scleroderma, Lupus and Fibromyalgia It all started with Raynaud's in my fingers and toes when I was about nineteen years old, in 1979...

Marina: Diffuse Scleroderma I was sent to a rheumatologist who spent one and a half hours checking me while explaining this rare and incurable autoimmune connective tissue disease in a nut shell...

Mike Thomas: Diffuse Scleroderma The doctors keep passing me around saying that I am too complicated for them to treat. So nothing gets done...

Rachel: Morphea Scleroderma I have learned to control the use of addicting medication and to manage the pain as well as possible...

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