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Study: Kidney Transplant Medications Increase Risk of Skin Cancer

Possible Danger With Stopping and Starting Anti-Rejection Drugs

Patients who receive a kidney transplant are at an increased risk of cancer, and particularly skin cancer.

Researchers at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland analyzed the pattern of skin cancer rates among kidney transplant patients, and results indicate the increased risk is related to the anti-rejection medications.

According to the study, published in JAMA Dermatology, if the transplant fails and patients return to dialysis, the skin cancer risk falls but rises again if they receive another transplant. However, the skin cancer rate is still higher in patients whose transplants failed than in pre-transplant patients on dialysis.

The data from the pattern of skin cancer rates suggests that the cancer risk is related to the stopping and starting of anti-rejection medications. 

The study analyzed cancer rates in 3,821 deceased and living kidney-transplant recipients. 3,215 patients had received one transplant; 522 patients had received a second; and 84 patients had received three transplants.

During the patient’s first kidney transplant, the skin cancer rate rose 15 times higher than before the procedure. That rate fell by half when the transplant failed and the patient returned to dialysis, but it was still seven times higher than the pre-transplant patient’s rate. If patients received a second transplant, the rate rose again to 12.8 times more than the pre-transplant rate.

Although the study provided an in-depth analysis of cancer risk over multiple kidney transplants in the same patients, the researchers cautioned that because the analysis is retrospective, it is difficult to grasp the effect of the delay between exposure, cancer development, presentation, and diagnosis.

Source: EurekAlert!, February 27, 2019

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