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Multiple occurrences of skin cancer after transplantation lead to lower quality of life

30 January 2020

More attention is needed for the risk of skin cancer arising in transplant patients. This is what researchers Melvin Frie, Coby Annema and Emöke Rácz from the University Medical Center Groningen are calling for. From their research, which they presented at the Dutch Society for Experimental Dermatology (Nederlandse Vereniging voor Experimentele Dermatologie; NVED) and which was published in JAMA Dermatology, it appears that transplant patients who have been diagnosed with skin cancer – sometimes many years after transplantation occurred – experience a lower quality of life.

Higher risk of skin cancer

Patients that have had to undergo transplantation at some point in their lives have a much higher risk of developing skin cancer. This applies to all patients who have had a transplantation, regardless of which organ was transplanted. The risk of skin cancer is 250 times higher in this group than for people who have not undergone transplantation. This heightened risk is caused by the necessary medication that the patients must take after their transplantations. On average, skin cancer arises in these patients around seven years after transplantation has taken place.

Research into quality of life

In this study, the researchers focused on the impact of the occurrence of skin cancer on the quality of life of transplant patients. The quality of life of this group of patients has never been measured until now. The researchers used extensive questionnaires to measure quality of life. To this end, they followed 94 patients who had undergone transplantation and who had been diagnosed with skin cancer.

Multiple occurrences of skin cancer

From their research, it appears that transplant patients who had had multiple occurrences of skin cancer experienced a lower quality of life than transplant patients who had had only one occurrence of skin cancer. When, over the course of years, multiple skin tumours developed in this group – often also in the head and neck region – this had a strong impact on their physical self-image. This may be the result of the tumours themselves but could also be due to the many surgical procedures that the patients had to undergo as a result. This group also reported a lower quality of life due to them constantly needing to protect themselves from the sun and lather themselves in sun cream.

Timely attention

According to the researchers, more attention is needed for the risk of skin cancer arising in transplant patients. They are calling for this long-term consequence to be discussed with patients at an early stage, before and after their transplantations, so that they are aware of the impact that this may have on their lives. Good protection from the sun is also of extreme importance for this group of patients to prevent skin cancer from arising later in life.

TransplantLines biobank

The researchers made use of TransplantLines, the UMCG biobank for all transplant patients. Via this biobank, 3,000 patients who have received a donor organ are monitored for 30 years. The goal of the biobank is to develop more tailored treatment for each individual patient, so that patients with a donor organ can age healthily.

Last modified:07 July 2020 2.13 p.m.
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