Why Lung Transplant Patients Should Watch Their Skin

Lung transplant patients taking voriconazole may have raised skin cancer risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) A medication commonly prescribed to treat fungal infections in lung transplant recipients may wind up posing some unexpected risks.

Researchers from the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) found that voriconazole (brand name Vfend) may significantly increase the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), a common form of skin cancer, in lung transplant recipients.

"It is important for physicians to be aware of the impact of voriconazole on these outcomes," said lead study author Sarah Arron, MD, PhD, an associate professor of dermatology and director of the UCSF High Risk Skin Cancer Clinic, in a press release. "We recommend that all providers counsel lung transplant recipients on skin cancer risk and [sun] protection in addition to scheduling routine skin cancer screening with a trained dermatologist after transplantation."

Recipients of organ transplants, especially lung transplants, are already susceptible to SCC after transplant. This is primarily due to a compromised immune system.

SCC is an aggressive form of skin cancer that develops in the thin, flat squamous cells that make up the outer skin layer.

Voriconazole is typically prescribed to prevent and treat invasive fungal infections like those caused by Aspergillus fungi, especially in patients with compromised immune systems.

Dr. Arron and team looked at data on 455 lung transplant recipients.

Taking voriconazole was linked to a 73 percent increase in SCC risk. The longer a patient took this drug, the higher the risk. Older adults, men and white patients were at the highest risk of SCC.

This study was published Sept. 3 in the American Journal of Transplantation.

The UCSF Nina Ireland Lung Disease Program funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
September 3, 2015
Last Updated:
September 9, 2015