Background  Renal transplant patients have a higher incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC). Previous studies hypothesized that human leukocyte antigen (HLA), especially types DR1, DR4, and DR7, may influence the incidence of these tumors. This study investigates the association between NMSC and the presence of HLA DR1, DR4, and DR7 in renal transplant patients in southern Brazil.

Methods  In a historical cohort study, 1032 patients who underwent renal transplantation during the period from January 1993 to December 2006 were examined to identify occurrences of NMSC and HLA status prior to transplant.

Results  Of the 1032 patients examined, 59 (5.71%) developed NMSC (squamous cell carcinoma [SCC]: 2.42%; basal cell carcinoma [BCC]: 1.74%; both: 1.55%). The presence of HLA DR1 was associated with a higher probability of developing any NMSC and particularly with developing BCC (P < 0.05). There was no statistically significant association between the presence of HLA DR4 or DR7 and the occurrence of NMSC in this sample.

Conclusions  HLA DR1 appears to be associated with the development of BCC, as well as with the higher number of NMSC lesions in renal transplant patients. This study supports the trend to associate the DR1 allele with BCC and not with SCC.