Skin Cancer Awareness Month: Non-melanoma skin cancer and MPNs

  • MPNRF | May 11, 2024

    May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Research shows a link between skin cancers and MPNs. Diligent screening is crucial for those living with essential thrombocythemia (ET), polycythemia vera (PV), and myelofibrosis (MF). 

    Skin cancers, particularly non-melanomas, offer an example of how quickly and impactfully research can move to action that saves lives. 

    A recently published study in the journal Blood (Alex Rampatos followed 90 MPN patients who developed non-melanoma skin cancers (NMSCs) while receiving ruxolitinib therapy, across 18 treatment centers in the United Kingdom. What was learned can have an immediate, potentially life-saving effect on skin cancer prevention and outcomes. 

    In this specific study, NMSCs were the primary cause of death in 34.3% of patients, which exceeded the percentage of deaths due to myelofibrosis (MF) progression. It is still unclear exactly why these skin cancers are more insistent in people with MPNs; only additional research will drive us deeper into the answers. The authors suggest it may be related, at least in part, to ruxolitinib’s immunosuppressive activity.

    In conclusion, Alex Rampatos et al stated, “Our study highlights the aggressive nature of NMSCs in ruxolitinib-treated patients with MPN[s], the importance of counseling patients about the risk of skin cancer before starting ruxolitinib, and a requirement for close dermatological monitoring on treatment.

    If a patient develops an NMSC while taking ruxolitinib, the risks and benefits of each treatment option need to be carefully weighed and discussed with the patient.

    While studies like this help inform our knowledge, and can fuel more diligent cancer screening, they also point to the critical need for more and larger collaborative studies. 

    Source: Outcomes and characteristics of nonmelanoma skin cancers in patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms on ruxolitinib | Blood | American Society of Hematology (

    Certain medicines listed may not be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for myelofibrosis but are recommended by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). MPN Research Foundation works with NCCN on the creation and updating of its MPN Patient Guidelines.