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Heart Transplants, Skin Cancer Go Hand-in-Hand

Last month in this space, we told you about the fight many childhood cancer survivors may face with heart disease as they mature into adulthood. Evidently, the reverse may be true as well, specifically for patients undergoing heart transplants who have a greater risk of skin cancer.

Although it's no secret organ transplant recipients cope with a greater risk of skin cancers, Mayo Clinic researchers learned heart transplant patients are at least twice as likely to tackle skin cancer issues compared to those who receive new kidneys.

Based on health reviews of 312 heart transplant patients, nearly half developed skin cancer over the course of the 19-year study. Additionally, the incidence of squamous-cell carcinoma after the diagnosis of the first basal-cell carcinoma (the most common form of nonmelanoma skin cancer and the most easily treated one) was nearly 100 percent, within seven years. The primary culprits for this growing risk: The older age of the patient and the immunosuppressant drugs heart transplant patients take to prevent their bodies from rejecting their new organs.

Surprisingly, however, the mortality rate associated with skin cancer among transplant patients was very, very low: Only one transplant patient died from skin cancer.

Archives of Dermatology, Vol. 145, No. 12, pp. 1391-1396, December 2009

heartwire December 29, 2009

ScienceDaily December 24, 2009

Tags :  skin cancer heart

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