Introduction There is an increased incidence of cancer in patients after organ transplantation. We reviewed a large series of cardiothoracic transplant recipients to determine the incidence and natural history of head and neck malignancy.
Methods A total of 1069 heart (n = 855), heart/lung (n = 111), and lung (n = 103) transplants were performed at Stanford University from January 1968 to February 1998. Demographic data, risk factors, and disease course were evaluated in patients who developed cancer. The mean length of follow-up was 8.9 ± 5.2 years.
Results One hundred twenty patients (11.2%) developed 547 non-lymphomatous malignancies. The mean number of malignancies per cancer patient was 4.6. The average time from transplantation to development of cancer was 63.1 months. A total of 50.5% of malignancies presented in the head and neck; 96.4% of these were cutaneous in origin and 3.6% were noncutaneous. Of cutaneous malignancies, 79.3% were squamous cell carcinoma and 15.9% were basal cell carcinoma. Cutaneous malignancies most commonly presented on the scalp, cheek, lip, and neck. Noncutaneous malignancies involved the oral cavity (5), thyroid (4), and parotid (1). Thirteen percent of cutaneous head and neck cancers behaved aggressively, requiring e-tensive management including radical surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy. A total of 34.2% of cancer patients developed metastases and 54.9% of cancer patients died as a direct result of cancer. A total of 68% of cancer patients were smokers and 23.8% had significant alcohol use.
Conclusion Transplant recipients have an increased incidence of cancer presenting in the head and neck. Malignancies in transplant patients behave more aggressively than in the general population. Recognition of this aggressive biological behavior and heightened cancer surveillance should result in improved outcomes.