Organ Transplant Patients at Increased Risk for Skin Cancer

Organ Transplant Patients with Increased Risk for Skin Cancer

Organ transplant patients have been found to have an increased risk for skin cancer. The medication given to patients with organ transplants to prevent organ rejection plays a key role. Unprotected sun exposure also increases the person’s risk for skin cancer, especially in organ transplant patients. Clinical studies have shown that 20 years after receiving an organ transplant, patients have a 40% overall increased risk for skin cancer. This is especially true for patients living in temperate climates, such as Australia.

Fast Facts about Organ Transplant and Skin Cancer:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma is more common among organ transplant patients

  • 27% of mortality is due to skin cancer in one study in Australia

  • 40% overall increased risk for skin cancer in organ transplant recipients 20 years after receiving an organ

  • Skin cancer in organ transplant recipient patients tend to develop 2-4 years after the organ transplant.

Recommendations to Prevent Skin Cancer

  • Obtain a full body examination before your organ transplant to inspect for suspected skin lesions

  • Apply sunscreen daily and wear sun-protective clothing

  • Avoid direct sun-exposure and tanning beds/devices

  • Obtain regular dermatologic check-ups with your primary care provider ordermatologist.

  • Perform regular self-exams. This can be life-saving, especially since skin cancer treatment is most effective when treated early.

Having an organ transplant is a life-saving and life-changing procedure, but it is very important to be aware of this risk of skin cancer in these patients. Whether you have a friend, family or yourself have an organ transplant, being aware of this risk and learning what one can do to reduce the risk of skin cancer are likely to improve one’s quality of life, and even survival of your loved one.

Emmanuel De La Cruz M.D. The Woodlands Plastic Surgeon


Berg D, Otley CC. Skin cancer in organ transplant recipients: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, and management. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 2002; 47: 1-17; quiz 8-20.

Euvrard S, Kanitakis J, Claudy A. Skin cancers after organ transplantation. The New England Journal of Medicine 2003; 348: 1681-91.

Ong CS, Keogh AM, Kossard S et al. Skin cancer in Australian heart transplant recipients. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 1999; 40: 27-34.

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