WEDNESDAY, Sept. 21, 2016 — People who have an organ transplant may be more likely to develop skin cancer, new research suggests.
The finding applies to all transplant patients, even those who are nonwhite and dark-skinned, according to Dr. Christina Lee Chung, an associate professor of dermatology at Drexel University in Philadelphia, and colleagues.
The researchers said the risk increases over time with ongoing exposure to medications that suppress the immune system to prevent organ rejection.
For the study, the researchers analyzed medical records of 413 organ transplant recipients, 63 percent of whom were not white.
The investigators found 19 new skin cancers in 15 of the nonwhite patients. That group included six black patients, five Asians and four Hispanics. Among the black patients, all of the skin cancers were caught early on.
Most of the Asian patients developed skin cancers in areas that had been exposed to the sun. Skin cancers were also found on sun-exposed areas and lower legs of the Hispanic patients.
The researchers noted, however, that their ability to draw firm conclusions was limited by the small number of skin cancer patients. And the study did not prove a cause-and-effect link.
“Nonwhite organ transplant patients represent a unique group with specialized medical needs; thus, more knowledge on risk factors, appropriate screening methods and counseling points are essential for providing comprehensive dermatologic care for these patients,” the study authors concluded.
The study was published online Sept. 21 in JAMA Dermatology.