(HealthDay News) — Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) receive cancer screening tests at higher rates than that of the general population, according to a study published online July 10 in Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Using data from a large U.S. commercial insurance plan, Seoyoung C. Kim, M.D., from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues compared cancer screening rates for patients with and without RA. RA was identified as two or more diagnoses of RA and at least one prescription for a disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug.

The researchers found that, over a mean of 2.3 years of follow-up, both RA and non-RA patients were screened, on average, once every three years for cervical cancer and once every two years for breast cancer. Adjusting for age, women with RA were more likely than non-RA patients to receive one or more of each of the following tests: Papanicolaou smear (hazard ratio [HR], 1.21; 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 1.17 to 1.24), mammogram (HR, 1.49; 95 percent CI, 1.45 to 1.53), and colonoscopy (HR, 1.69; 95 percent CI, 1.61 to 1.77). Similarly, men with RA were more likely than non-RA patients to receive a colonoscopy (HR, 1.52; 95 percent CI, 1.40 to 1.64). These results persisted when adjusting for age, number of physician visits, percent of visits made to primary care physicians, and comorbidity index.

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“Individuals with RA did not appear to be at risk for receiving fewer cancer screening tests than non-RA patients,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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