Is Lupus Cancer? 7 Similarities and Differences


Is lupus cancer? The short answer is no. However, it does have ties to certain types of cancer.

Understanding the link between lupus and cancer not only helps relieve any anxiety you might have had around the disease but also makes you aware of potential future risks. This ensures you receive the care you need to prevent cancer and cancer-related illnesses stemming from your lupus.

Let’s explore lupus and cancer and how the two conditions interconnect.

Understanding Lupus

Lupus, technically known as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is an autoimmune disease. This means the body's immune system unknowingly attacks its own tissues and organs.

Some of the areas lupus can affect include:

The accompanying symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes, fever, and inflammation.

While no one knows the exact cause of lupus, medical researchers believe genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors all contribute to it.

Is Lupus a Cancer Disease?

Is lupus a type of cancer? It is not.

Lupus falls under the autoimmune disease category where the body turns on itself (think of it as an over-eager immune system). In contrast, cancer develops when the immune system doesn’t respond to malignant or harmful cells (think of it as an under-eager immune system).

Even though there is a clear distinction between lupus and cancer, research has uncovered links between the two conditions. One research project found a link between lupus and an increased risk of seventeen different cancers. The study revealed a 62% elevated risk of cancer in the participants with lupus.

For example, those with lupus are at a greater risk of certain cancers, such as:

  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Lung cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Cervical cancer

While the research groups showed increased cancer risk, there is still a significant amount of ambiguity around this topic. Researchers still don’t know the exact connection and risk because the two diseases remain complex and obscure.

While the chances are greater, having lupus is not a guaranteed cancer diagnosis, so there is no need to worry. Instead, knowing the link should encourage you to stay on top of your screenings.

7 Similarities and Differences between Lupus and Cancer

If you’re interested in diving deeper into the connection between lupus and cancer, which may help you understand some of your increased health risks, here are the similarities and differences between the diseases.

Similarities Between Lupus and Cancer

Is lupus like cancer?

Despite being distinct conditions, lupus and cancer share similarities, particularly in their immune system impact.

Here are three similarities between lupus and cancer:

  • Both trigger an inflammatory response.
  • Both cause fatigue, fever, and weight loss.
  • Cancer treatments like chemotherapy weaken the immune system, triggering lupus-like symptoms.

Because of these similarities, there may be some confusion in diagnosis if there are not many additional symptoms. Be sure to speak with a specialist who understands both conditions so you receive the best care for your health.

Differences Between Lupus and Cancer

Is lupus a form of cancer? While they may be like each other, they are not a form of each other.

Lupus and cancer have some overlap, but they are very different diseases. Understanding their differences helps doctors know which disease is impacting your health.

  • Lupus is an autoimmune disease, and cancer is not.
  • Lupus is a chronic condition requiring ongoing treatment while cancer patients receive surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation to send it into remission.
  • Lupus does not cause tumors that spread like cancer.
  • Lupus primarily affects organs and tissue through inflammation, whereas cancer can impact your whole body.

If you’re unsure of your condition, please see a medical professional for an official diagnosis.

Seeking Professional Help for Lupus

Given the complexities involved in diagnosing and managing both lupus and cancer, it's essential for individuals experiencing concerning symptoms to seek the expertise of a medical professional. Only a qualified healthcare provider can accurately diagnose the underlying cause of symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment options.

Attempting to self-diagnose or ignore symptoms can delay receiving necessary care.

At Southwest Florida Rheumatology, your health is our priority. Expert rheumatologists can help you diagnose and manage lupus symptoms and other rheumatic diseases.

Are you interested in visiting one of our three locations in Florida?

Contact us today to schedule your first appointment by calling 813-672-2243.


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