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Organ Transplants Linked To Increased Skin Cancer Risk

22 September 2016, 11:15 pm EDT By Rhodi Lee Tech Times
Organ transplant patients have up to 250 times increased risk for squamous-cell carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer. The risk also applies to Black, Asian and Hispanic patients  ( Joe Raedle | Getty Images )

People who have organ transplant have higher risk of developing skin cancer and this risk applies to dark-skinned and nonwhite people.

In a new research published in JAMA Dermatology on Sept. 21, researchers have found that the risk for squamous-cell carcinoma of the skin is between 65 to 250 times higher in patients who have received organ transplant.

Squamous-cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer and is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the squamous cells that make up most of the upper layers of the skin called epidermis. The researchers also found that skin cancer in organ transplant patients are likely to be more aggressive and more fatal.

The researchers explained that the risk becomes higher overtime with patients' ongoing exposure to medications that are taken to suppress immune system and prevent organ rejection. This suggests that total-body skin exams should be included in routine care following transplant surgery.

"Nonwhite organ transplant recipients are at risk for developing skin cancer posttransplantation," the researchers wrote in their study.

"Follow-up in a specialized transplant dermatology center and baseline total-body skin examination should be part of posttransplantation care in all organ transplant recipients, including nonwhite patients."

For the study, Christina Lee Chung, from the Drexel Dermatology Center for Transplant Patients, and colleagues looked at the medical records of 413 organ transplant patients, 63 percent of whom were nonwhite: blacks, Asians and Hispanics. Of the participants in this group, 15 were found to have 19 new skin cancers.

The researchers found that the Asian patients were likely to develop skin cancers in areas of the body that had been exposed to the sun. Hispanic patients had skin cancers on lower legs and sun-exposed areas. Most of the skin cancers in black patients, on the other hand, were found in the groin-genital area and majority of these lesions were positive for high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV).

Chung said that people tend to think that dark-skinned patients cannot get skin cancer, but they also take the same immunosuppressant drugs that their white counterparts take.

"The ultimate takeaway is that though people of color are at decreased risk for skin cancer, but they're not not at risk," Chung said adding that nonwhite transplant patients need to be approached different depending on where they are from, the skin type and tone that they have and their medical history.

Figures from the American Cancer Society show that there are about 5.4 million basal and squamous cell skin cancers diagnosed per year.

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