Background. Cardiac transplant recipients have a greatly increased risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer, with a relative risk of up to 108. Skin cancer is more aggressive in transplant patients and results in substantial morbidity and mortality. It is therefore important that these patients understand this risk and take adequate sun-protection measures.
Aim. To assess awareness of skin cancer risk and sun protection measures used by cardiac transplant recipients and determine the impact of patient education.
Methods. Using a detailed questionnaire, we surveyed 118 patients attending the cardiac transplant clinic at our centre to quantify knowledge of skin cancer risk (maximum total score 10) and behaviour in the sun (maximum total score 15). Of these patients, 50 were then seen by a dermatologist for education about skin cancer risk, sun protection measures and skin cancer screening. Six months later, we asked them to complete the same questionnaire again.
Results. The mean knowledge score was 7.3/10 and the mean behaviour score was 11.2/15. In the group that received education, the mean knowledge score improved from 7.2/10 before the dermatology consultation to 7.8/10 after the consultation (P < 0.03). The mean score for the behaviour questions improved even more, from 11.2/15 before to 13.5/15 after the consultation (P < 0.0001).
Conclusions. This study demonstrates that specialist advice can improve self-reported knowledge of skin cancer risk and sun protective behaviour in cardiac transplant recipients. It is hoped that this may reduce the risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer in these patients.