Patients who undergo heart transplants have a significant risk of developing serious skin cancers, including cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, according to a study published in the American Journal of Transplantation.1
Because heart transplant patients require immune medications to keep their bodies from rejecting the transplants, the changes to their immune system can make them more susceptible to developing cancer. The study, led by Murad Mam, MD, of Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, analyzed 6271 heart transplants at 32 US transplant centers over the course 10 years. They found that the incidence of skin cancers after transplant increased by 4 to 30 times the rate patients who had not undergone heart transplants. Dr. Alam notes that better patient education and increased screening for skin cancers in patients who undergo heart transplant may help to reduce the morbidity and mortality related to the disease.