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22-12-2011 | Article

Cancer survivors face heightened risk for skin cancer


Free abstract

MedWire News: People who survive cancer continue to have an increased likelihood of developing skin cancer compared with the general population, a major study has found.

The research suggests the people who are successfully treated for cancer should continue to be monitored closely by a skin specialist for at least 15 years after being given the "all clear."

The study was led by Dr Jeremy Bordeaux (Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA) and included nearly 80,000 patients who had developed skin cancer after suffering an earlier cancer.

In most patients the earlier cancer was also skin cancer, while in a minority the earlier cancer was a cancer in another part of the body.

Dr Bordeaux's team found that certain groups of patients were particularly prone to developing skin cancer after suffering an earlier cancer.

Among people aged 45 years or under when they were first diagnosed with cancer, these "high-risk groups" included people who had earlier had skin cancer, Kaposi sarcoma, female breast cancer, or lymphoma.

In people aged over 45 years, high-risk groups were those who had had skin cancer, eye cancer, female breast cancer, prostate cancer, thyroid cancer, lymphoma, or leukemia.

Patients' outlook from skin cancer varied widely, report Dr Bordeaux and co-authors. Specifically, women, younger individuals, married people, and those of White ethnicity all fared better in terms of survival.

Certain clinical characteristics (such as whether or not the tumor was ulcerated or had spread) also influenced the outlook.

Importantly, the skin cancer risk remained elevated for over 15 years after the initial cancer diagnosis.

Dr Bordeaux and team say that the increased risk for skin cancer after a previous cancer has several potential explanations, including genetic (inherited) susceptibility, exposure to ultraviolet radiation (sunlight), or a weakened immune system.

"Our results suggest the need for continued skin surveillance in melanoma survivors," the researchers conclude.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Joanna Lyford