Pimecrolimus Cream Does Not Increase Cancer Risk

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Pimecrolimus (Elidel) cream used to treat eczema in children does not appear to increase the risk of cancer.
Pimecrolimus (Elidel) cream used to treat eczema in children does not appear to increase the risk of cancer.

Pimecrolimus (Elidel) cream used to treat eczema in children does not appear to increase the risk of cancer, according to a study published in JAMA Dermatology.

Researchers looked at 7,457 children in the United States who were given an average of 793 grams of pimecrolimus cream to treat eczema and were followed for 10 years.

As of May 2014, five cases of cancer were diagnosed among the children: two leukemias, two lymphomas, and one bone cancer. There were no cases of skin cancer, the researchers said.

The standardized incidence ratio for all malignancies based on the age-standardized Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results population was 1.2 (95 percent confidence interval [CI], 0.5 to 2.8).

In secondary analyses, the standardized incidence ratios (based on two cases for each) were 2.9 (95 percent CI, 0.7 to 11.7) for lymphoma and 2.0 (95 percent CI, 0.5 to 8.2) for leukemia.

Based on the findings, "it seems unlikely" that pimecrolimus cream as used in the study to treat eczema is associated with an increased risk of cancer, lead researcher David Margolis, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues concluded.

RELATED: Few Dermatology Patients Perform Skin Cancer Screening

The study "will hopefully help to improve the management of atopic dermatitis, countering the concerns raised by FDA warnings," Jon Hanifin, M.D., of the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, writes in an editorial that accompanied the study.

The findings "should help reduce the physician and pharmacist concerns that have restricted the use of these effective topical alternatives to corticosteroids. The interim results should help bring relief to a larger segment of the many young individuals with atopic dermatitis."

The research was funded by Montreal-based Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, the manufacturer of Elidel cream.


  1. Margolis, David J., MD, PhD, et al. "Association Between Malignancy and Topical Use of Pimecrolimus." JAMA Dermatology. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2014.4305. February 18, 2015.

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