Other Cancers After Skin Cancer

Skin cancer history associated with an increased risk of future malignancies

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

(RxWiki News) Skin cancers are far and away the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than two million Americans are diagnosed with some form of the disease each year.

The good news is that skin cancers that are not melanoma (the most serious form of the disease) are highly curable. There may be a darker side to skin cancer, though.

A new study found that white people with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer had a somewhat higher risk of developing other cancers.

Men who had been diagnosed with skin cancer had an 11 percent higher risk and women survivors had a 20 percent increased risk of developing new cancers compared to people who had never had skin cancer.

The authors caution that these findings come from analyzing other data. Nonetheless, this potential association should be noted.

"Protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays."

The two major types of non-melanoma skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Basal cell is the more common of the two.

Jiali Han, PhD, an associate professor at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, led this study, which analyzed data from two large studies that followed participants for about 15 years.

In the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, researchers followed 46,237 men from June 1986 to June 2008. The Nurses’ Health Study followed 107,339 women from June 1984 to June 2008.

A total of 36,102 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer, as well as 29,447 new cases of other malignancies, were identified among white participants.

After correcting for multiple variables, the authors learned that a history of non-melanoma skin cancer was linked to an increased risk of breast and lung cancer in women and of melanoma in both men and women.

When excluding melanoma from the results, men had an 11 percent increased risk and women had a 20 percent increased risk of new cancers following skin cancer.

People with basal cell carcinoma had a 15 percent higher risk, and those with squamous cell carcinoma had a 26 percent increased risk of future cancers compared with people who had never had skin cancer.  

"This prospective study found a modestly increased risk of subsequent malignancies among individuals with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer, specifically breast and lung cancer in women and melanoma in both men and women," the authors wrote.

“Because our study was observational, these results should be interpreted cautiously and are insufficient evidence to alter current clinical recommendations,” Dr. Han said in a news release. “Nevertheless, these data support a need for continued investigation of the potential mechanisms underlying this relationship.”

The study was published April 23 in PLOS Medicine.

The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health. Abrar A. Qureshi declared financial relationships with Abbott, Amgen, Merck, Pfizer, Merck, Novartis and US Centers for Disease Control. The other authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 23, 2013
Last Updated:
August 14, 2013