The association between autoimmunity and cancer is well established.

On the one hand, cancer has been implicated in some autoimmune disorders, such as scleroderma and thyroiditis. Malignancy is so frequently observed in certain conditions, such as Myasthenia Gravis, that their management includes an investigation for tumors. On the other hand, many autoimmune disorders and immunosuppressive therapies have been linked to an increased risk for cancer. One literature review study found a large positive association between 23 autoimmune and inflammatory diseases and subsequent cancer development. Associations for conditions such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematous, and multiple sclerosis were found.

The precise mechanism of the autoimmune or inflammatory disease does not appear to affect cancer risk significantly. In a state of perpetual activation, as in autoimmune disease, immune mediators may cause tissue damage leading to chronic inflammation and thereafter increase the risk of carcinogenesis. Additionally, ongoing stimulation and compensatory rapid replication of the immune cells in this environment may contribute to malignant proliferation. Other factors affecting immune activity, such as genetic mutations, environmental exposure, and immunomodulatory treatments, also promote a carcinogenic environment.

Immunomodulatory medications may contribute to the elevated risk of cancer development in those with autoimmune and chronic inflammatory diseases and cancer. When patients are on immunosuppressive medications for a prolonged period, chances of cancer development are increased. While immune responses are essential for protection against the development of cancer, the immune system may lead to loss of self-tolerance and later generation of autoimmunity. Therefore the immune system may either aid in the prevention of or augment the promotion of carcinogenesis.

As the relationships between autoimmune conditions and cancer become more apparent through current research, an increasingly greater need to prevent and treat the cause of autoimmunity with natural methods grows.

If you would like to restore function to your immune system, and protect your body against the development of a cancerous environment, schedule a consultation today.


Franks, Alexis. Slansky, Jill. “Multiple Associations Between a Broad Spectrum of Autoimmune Diseases, Chronic Inflammatory Diseases and Cancer” HHS Author Manuscripts. May 2012.