The frequency of skin cancer in organ transplant recipients is high, up to 15%.
Our purpose was to determine the incidence of skin cancer in patients who underwent immunosuppression after heart transplantation and to determine the factors important in the appearance of skin cancer.
We studied the frequency of skin cancer in 92 of 111 patients after they underwent heart transplantation between January 1984 and December 1993.
At least one cutaneous neoplasm (squamous cell carcinoma and/or basal cell carcinoma) developed in 14 patients (15.2%). The basal cell carcinoma to squamous cell carcinoma ratio was 1:1.5. The skin cancer appeared an average of 31.5 months after transplantation; the average was 36 months for squamous cell carcinoma and 25.3 months for basal cell carcinoma. Cumulative risk rose from 4.3% at 1 year up to 43.8% at 7 years after transplantation. The overall incidence of both types of skin cancer was 45.3 per 1000 posttransplant person-years, with an incidence of 25.8 for basal cell carcinoma and 29.1 for squamous cell carcinoma. Most skin cancers developed between 2 and 3 years after transplantation. All patients were exposed to a significant amount of ultraviolet radiation and had skin type II or III. We did not find a significant association between skin cancer and haplotype HLA-A3, HLA-A11, HLA-DR, and the number of mismatches for HLA-B.
We found an increased progressive cumulative incidence of skin cancer in heart transplant recipients for two reasons: (1) immunosuppression and increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation in some patients, and (2) the skin type of certain patients. We emphasize the need for photoprotection in this group of patients and regular skin cancer screening examinations.
CITATION J Am Acad Dermatol. 1995 Mar;32(3):458-65