Q: Are there any precautions I need to take before using Azathioprine?
A: Azathioprine is used for severe and delicate conditions involving the immune system. Hence, care and caution is warranted through the course of treatment with this medicine. As it causes changes in blood cells and platelets, regular blood tests may be required. Avoid direct exposure to the sun, wear protective clothing, and use sunscreen lotions. If you take multiple Immunosuppressants, it will increase your risk further. Azathioprine increases the risk of cancer. Do not stop taking medicine suddenly, as it may cause a flare-up of the immune system and lead to harmful reactions. Do not self-medicate with Azathioprine. Inform your doctor if you do not feel like taking this medicine. He will decrease the dose gradually and use other alternatives. Do not take any vaccines without the knowledge of your doctor.
Q: Does Azathioprine cause cancer?
A: Azathioprine does not cause cancer. But it can increase your risk for certain cancer of the skin or the immune system. You can take precautions as illustrated above (protective clothing, avoiding exposure to sun, etc.) and keep your risk to a minimum. Patients do take Azathioprine for long periods with excellent results. Exercise caution as there is a chance of risk due to its actions on the bone marrow causing a decrease in blood cell counts. You should do blood and kidney tests regularly for close monitoring. If you can be a bit careful, there is no need to avoid this medicine.