Heart Transplant Patients Have Higher Skin Cancer Risk

Heart transplant recipients more prone to skin cancers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Those receiving heart transplants expect there will be numerous risks from the procedure itself to infections following the operation. There may be additional, unexpected disease risks though, according to a new study.

A study led by Dr. Murad Alam, M.D., M.S.C.I., of Northwestern University, shows that heart transplant recipients are a significant risk of a variety of skin cancers.

"Get regular skin cancer screenings if you have received a heart transplant."

The study, published in the American Journal of Transplantation, revealed that those receiving heart transplants are at a high risk of cancers including cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, one of the most serious kinds of skin cancer.

When receiving heart transplants, patients take immune medications which keep the body from rejecting the transplanted organ. Those drugs cause changes to the immune system that can make those patients more susceptible to developing certain types of skin cancers, the study showed.

Dr. Alam reviewed 10 years of patient information about 6,271 heart transplants at 32 U.S. transplant centers. That information revealed that heart transplant patients were much more likely to suffer from skin cancer than those who did not receive a heart transplant. Following a heart transplant, the risk of skin cancer is increased by between four and 30 times, the study showed.

Dr. Alam said that improved patient education and appropriate screenings for skin cancer in heart transplant patients could decrease the number of deaths experienced.

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Review Date: 
July 5, 2011
Last Updated:
July 8, 2011