People who undergo solid organ transplants to save their lives may require more stringent monitoring for cancer, especially skin cancer. Those are the findings of a recent study that dove into cancer rates among transplant recipients. The results were rather alarming, prompting some to suggest they should serve as a cautionary tale for doctors and transplant patients.
The study in question followed more than 11,000 solid organ transplant patients to gauge their cancer incident rates. Researchers found that patients in this population has a significantly higher skin cancer rate than those from the general population. They were, in fact, about three times more likely to die of cancer than others. Among the highest rates of cancer incident were non-melanoma skin cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, researchers found.
Risks for other types of cancer were also noted in the study. They include lung cancer, liver and colorectal, among others. The overall mortality rate was highest among transplant patients who developed lung cancer.
To ensure a well-rounded sampling, the study involved a variety of transplant patients. They included those who received kidney, heart, lungs and livers. Over the course of the study, more than 3,000 patients died. About 20 percent of the deaths were attributable to one form of cancer or another.
Researchers did not delve into why the differences in cancer incident rates arose in transplant patients. That, however, is an anticipated area of study for the future. How soon such a line of research might get under way remains unclear.
In the meantime, however, researchers stress the need for transplant patients to be more carefully screened and monitored for the potential development of cancer. Early detection, they believe, may help improve outcomes for those who develop caner following a successful solid organ transplant.
While the results of the study are not definitive, they do signal a need for caution. Transplant patients face a number of potential complications in the months and years following their surgeries. The development of cancer, as the study showed, very well may pose a major threat.
People who undergo transplants are urged to speak with their healthcare providers about their cancer risks and the need for screening. Routine screens for skin cancer, for example, may enable doctors to detect this disease at its earliest and most treatable phases. Since cancer is a risk in the population on the whole, it is also recommended everyone discuss their personal cancer risks with their healthcare providers. Early screening does save lives.