Many heart transplant patients are developing multiple skin cancers, according to a report in the December issue of Archives of Dermatology. “Solid organ transplant recipients are at increased risk for skin cancers,” the study’s authors wrote. “Incidence, tumor burden and risk factors for skin cancer are well documented in renal transplant recipients. However, these characteristics are documented to a lesser extent in heart transplant patients, who are at least twice as likely to have skin cancer compared with renal transplant recipients.”
Reasons for this could include the greater use of immunosuppressive medications and an older average age at the time of transplant. “Although a considerable tumor burden was found in this study, the rate of death due to skin cancer was surprisingly low. Only one patient died of skin cancer, of a melanoma,” the authors write. “Health care providers and patients have been educated for more than 10 years about the risk, early detection and treatment of skin cancer, which is apparent from the low mortality rate. Vigilant sun protection practices, skin cancer education, regular skin examinations and daily vitamin D supplementation are appropriate interventions in these high-risk heart transplant patients,” they concluded.