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Type of Muscular Dystrophy Linked to Raised Cancer Risk

TUESDAY, Dec. 13 (HealthDay News) -- People with a certain type of muscular dystrophy have twice the risk of being diagnosed with cancer as the general population, although the actual risk is relatively low, a new study finds.

Myotonic muscular dystrophy (MMD) is characterized by progressive weakness and muscular wasting that can affect many muscles, including those of the face, neck, hands and feet. The condition can range from mild to severe.

The study, published in the Dec. 14 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, included 1,658 patients in Denmark and Sweden who were diagnosed with MMD between 1977 and 2008, and followed until they were diagnosed with cancer, died or emigrated.

During follow-up, about 40 percent of the patients died and about 6 percent developed cancer. The number of MMD patients who developed cancer (104) was twice as high as the 52 cases that would be expected in the same number of people in the general population, Dr. Shahinaz Gadalla of the U.S. National Cancer Institute and colleagues explained in a journal news release.

Gadalla and colleagues said their findings indicate that MMD patients are at increased risk for cancer.

"Most notably, we observed significant excesses of endometrial cancer, brain cancer, ovarian cancer and colon cancer. Our data also suggested possible excesses of eye cancer, other female genital organ cancer, thyroid cancer and pancreatic cancer," the researchers wrote.

People with MMD should make sure they are getting recommended cancer screenings, especially for colon cancer, according to the researchers.

The study authors also urged people with MMD not to be overly worried. Though the risk of certain cancers are higher compared to the general population, the chances of getting a specific cancer is still low.

"The incidence rates for a number of the excess cancers are relatively low, despite their large relative risks," the authors concluded.

More information

The Muscular Dystrophy Association has more about myotonic muscular dystrophy.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, news release, Dec. 13, 2011

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