UCSF University of California, San Francisco      About UCSF       Search UCSF       UCSF Medical Center     
School of Medicine  
 
Print This Page For Normal View, Click Here For Larger Font Sizes', Click Here
 
1701 Divisadero St.,
3rd Floor
San Francisco, CA
94143-0316
 
Skin Cancer
Skin Cancer Guide
Transplant Patient Guide
Caring for Transplant Patients
Seminars
Organ Transplant Immunosuppressed High Risk Skin Cancer Clinic
Tumor Board
Mohs Surgery
Contact and Referrals
Research and Clinical Trials
Dermatology Faculty

Read more about:

Risk Factors

Types of Cancer

Immunosuppression and Cancer

Prevention

Follow-up

Medical Treatment

Surgical Treatment

Resources



 

What Transplant Patients Need to Know
  • Organ transplant recipients are at high risk for developing skin cancer.
  • Your risk for skin cancer increases each year following transplantation.
  • Skin cancer in transplant patients can be life threatening and affect quality of life.

Organ Transplant Recipients are at high risk for developing skin cancer

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.

Skin Cancer Increase in Incidence
SCC   65-fold
SCC of lip   20-fold
BCC   10-fold
Melanoma   3.4-fold
Kaposi’s sarcoma   84-fold

Organ transplant patients have an increased risk for skin
cancer compared to the general population

back to top

Your risk for skin cancer increases each year following transplantation.

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.

back to top

Skin cancer in transplant patients can be life threatening and affect quality of life:

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:

  • Develop at younger age
  • Develop more quickly
  • Occur in greater numbers
  • Be more invasive and locally destructive
  • Have a greater risk for recurrence (regrowth of tumor at a previously treated area)
  • Have a greater risk for metastasis (tumor breaks off and travels to lymph nodes or other distant sites of the body)

back to top

References:

1. L. Naldi et al., Transplantation 70, 1479 (Nov 27, 2000).
2. R. Adamson et al., Transplant Proc 30, 1124 (Jun, 1998).

Updated: May 4, 2007
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.
    Site Map    About This Site     ©UC Regents