What Transplant Patients Need to Know
As people with transplants survive longer, the long term effects and complications are becoming more apparent. One complication is skin cancer.
Transplant patients have up at 100-fold higher risk for developing skin cancer compared to the general population. Transplant patients tend to develop a skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) although many patients will also develop a different type of skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma (BCC).
The frequency at which SCC occurs in transplant patients is 65-fold higher than the general population.
Transplant patients also develop other skin cancers. Figure 1 shows the increase in incidence for various types of skin cancer.
Organ transplant patients have an increased risk for
All transplant patients have a greater chance of developing skin cancer compared to the general population. This risk increases with each subsequent year following your transplant.
At 5 years after transplant, some studies suggest that approximately 5% of transplant patients will develop skin cancer. At 10-years, approximately 10% of transplant patients develop skin cancer(1). The risk for skin cancer may vary with the type of transplant. Cardiac and kidney transplant patients seem to develop skin cancer more frequently than liver or lung transplant patients(2). However, all transplant patients are at higher risk for skin cancer compared to the general population.
Untreated skin cancer invades and destroys tissue. It can lead to disfigurement and loss of function. In rare cases, skin cancer can metastasize. The metastasis rate in transplant patients is 3-4 fold higher than that of the general population and can be life threatening.
The keys to successfully treating skin cancer while minimizing any side effects are early detection and treatment.
The main skin cancer that occurs in transplant patients is squamous cell
carcinoma (SCC). SCC that occurs in transplant patients can behave differently
than SCCs that occur in the general population even thought they may look
the same. SCC that occur in transplant patients tend to: