Home  |  Contact Us  |  Site Map
| MENU |

Skin Cancer in Organ Transplant Recipients

Prevention and early detection of skin cancer is of the utmost importance.

Skin cancer is the most common form of all cancers. Over 1 million cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year alone. A large majority of these skin cancers are curable.

Skin Cancer & Immunosuppression
Immunosuppressed patients are at a significantly increased risk of developing skin cancer. Most skin cancers are easily cured if diagnosed and treated early. However, skin cancer in immunosuppressed individuals can also be more aggressive, especially if left untreated, and has the potential to spread to other parts of the body or even cause death.

For patients with many skin cancers, the extensive and repeated treatments may result in significant scarring and disfigurement.  This can affect not only the appearance of the skin but also the functional aspects of the skin and the underlying structures.  Immunosuppressed patients need access to information and education related to skin cancer and its prevention. Education, prevention, and early detection of skin cancer play a key role in health and wellness.

Organ Transplant Patients
The immunosuppressive medications that allow the transplanted organ to function and survive contribute to a patient’s risk of skin cancer. The risk of developing a skin cancer increases with increasing time from transplant. Within 10 years of organ transplant, 10-45 % of transplant recipients will have a skin cancer. As many as 80% of transplant recipients will have a skin cancer after 20 years after transplant.

Some transplant recipients will have few skin cancers while others will develop hundreds of skin cancers. Skin cancer and its sequelae have been shown to have a significant negative impact on the quality of life for organ recipients. It is important for dermatologists and transplant teams to help identify an individual’s risk for skin cancer and establish surveillance by full-body skin cancer screening at appropriate intervals.

Leukemia & Lymphoma Patients
Patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia have an increased risk of skin cancer due to impaired functioning of the immune system. Chemotherapy agents and radiation used to treat lymphoma may also increase a patient's risk for skin cancer.

In addition to a higher risk of developing skin cancer, leukemia and lymphoma patients can have a higher rate of skin cancer recurrence after surgical treatment. Patients should talk to their hematologist and dermatologist to determine how often they should have a full body skin cancer screening examination.

Skin Cancer Fast Facts:

  • Skin cancer is common.
    • In the general population, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer.
    • Compared to the general population, transplant recipients are:
      • 65 times more likely to develop a squamous cell carcinoma.
      • 10 times more likely to develop a basal cell carcinoma.
      • 3-4 times more likely to develop a melanoma.
    • Compared to the general population, patients with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia are:
      • 5 times more likely to develop a squamous cell carcinoma.
      • 2-3 times more likely to develop a basal cell carcinoma.
      • 2-3 times more likely to develop a melanoma.
    • Compared to the general population, patients with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma are:
      • 7 times more likely to develop a squamous cell carcinoma.
      • 3-4 times more likely to develop a basal cell carcinoma.
  • The most common type of skin cancer differs between immunosuppressed individuals and people with healthy immune systems.
    • In the general population, basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer
    • Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer in transplant recipients and patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
  • Immunosuppressed patients are at risk for more aggressive skin cancers, and even death from skin cancer metastasis.

Risk Factors for Skin Cancer

  • Personal or family history of skin cancer
  • Fair skin
  • Tendency to burn with sun exposure
  • Extensive freckling and sun damage of the skin
  • Older age
  • Extensive past or ongoing sun exposure
  • History of tanning bed use or phototherapy

Additional Risk Factors in Leukemia & Lymphoma Patients

  • Chemotherapy or radiation treatments

Additional Risk Factors in Transplant Patients

  • Transplantation of a thoracic organ such as a heart or lung
  • Longer duration of immunosuppression or time since transplantation
  • Voriconazole use
  • HPV skin infection (common warts)

To calculate your personal 5 and 10-year risk of skin cancer, scan the QR codes below to download the free SUNTRAC app on your smart device. This is a quick risk calculator to show your average risk based on data collected from other transplant recipients.




ITSCC

Your tax-deductible donation supports the education and research of physicians and scientists committed to improving the quality of life of organ transplant recipients. If you are unable to donate online or require other information to make a gift through a trust or other source, email info@itscc.org for additional assistance. ITSCC's federal tax ID is 43-1964114.

Support ITSCC video

ITSCC is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, and has received support through unrestricted educational grants from pharmaceutical companies and donations of time and funds from physicians, researchers, transplant patients and their families.