AUG 01, 2017 5:49 AM PDT

Kidney Recipients Have Higher Risks of Melanoma

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, seems to be an opportunistic striker. Earlier this year, scientists confirmed that patients with Parkinson’s disease were more likely to develop melanoma. Now it seems kidney transplant recipients are also at higher risk of developing the deadly skin cancer.

Left: melanomas. Right: normal moles. \\ Image credit: Wikipedia.org

In a study of over 105,000 kidney transplant recipients from between 2004 to 2012, researchers found that 488 patients went on to receive a melanoma diagnosis after the transplant.

Further analysis of the kidney transplant and melanoma link revealed a pattern that was not previously seen. Most of the kidney recipients were white, male, and older (about 11 years on average) than the healthy counterparts.

It’s been hypothesized that organ recipients have an increased chance of getting cancers because of the constant immunosuppressants that they must take in order to prevent organ failure. Indeed, lifelong exposure to these drugs has been most commonly linked to increased risks for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and cancers of the lung, kidney, and liver.

When the researchers teased apart the type of immunosuppressant drugs patients were taking, they found that the drugs cyclosporine and sirolimus were more common in those who developed melanoma.

"Renal transplant recipients had greater risk of developing melanoma than the general population. We believe that the risk factors we identified can guide clinicians in providing adequate care for patients in this vulnerable group," the authors concluded.

Although the study establishes a link between the two diseases, it does not provide a biological mechanism behind the association. However, the results suggest that kidney transplant recipients should be closely monitored for this disease, as well as other cancers. On another level, the link offers scientists clues into how melanoma strikes. And understanding the interplay between the immune system and how the disease develops could inform better treatment targets for patients in the future.

Additional sources: The JAMA Network Journals via Science Daily

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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