Non-White Organ Transplant Patients at Higher Risk for Skin Cancer

SEPTEMBER 21, 2016
Amy Jacob


Researchers recommend all organ transplant patients should undergo total-body screenings for skin cancer.
 
A new study from Drexel University College of Medicine, led by Christina Lee Chung, MD, reported the risk increases over time and with continued exposure to immunosuppression.
 
The study, published in JAMA Dermatology, involved 413 patients – 154 white and 259 nonwhite (African American, Asian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander) – from November 2011 to April 2016.
 
Researchers found all squamous cell carcinomas in African Americans were diagnosed in the in situ stage, located on sun-protected sites, and happened in patients whose lesions had tested positive for human papilloma virus (HPV) and/or who had a history of condyloma acuminate or verruca vulgaris.
 
The team also noted the majority of skin cancers in black organ transplant patients were found in the groin and genital area, and most of those lesions tested positive for high-risk HPV, so physicians are urged to specifically inspect these areas within this patient group.
 
Essentially, Chung believes dermatologists should be doing more than counseling their African American patients about sunscreen and instead should discuss other areas of skin cancer prevention.
 
According to the research, the increased risk of skin cancer in minority groups could be attributed to many factors: duration and intensity of immunosuppression, the type of organ transplanted, and Fitzpatrick skin type.
 
Furthermore, the study authors reported that skin cancer in nonwhite individuals is often diagnosed at a more advanced stage, and therefore associated with worse outcomes. 
 
According to a news statement, Chung believes there are several preconceived assumptions associated to skin cancer. “Overall, people tend to believe that dark-skinned patients can’t get skin cancer. But they are taking the same immunosuppressant drugs as their white counterparts.”


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