Background: Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is an important complication of solid organ transplantation, especially in areas of high ultraviolet light exposure. Registry data may underestimate the scale of the problem.
Objectives: A single-observer study of a Queensland renal transplant population was conducted between July 1999 and April 2000 utilizing both cross-sectional and retrospective data. The aims were to determine accurately the risk of NMSC following renal transplantation and compare this with currently available registry data.
Patients and methods: A structured interview and full skin examination was completed by 398 renal transplant recipients. Case notes and histology reports were examined for details of previous skin tumours. Independently collected data on 341 subjects from the Australia and New Zealand Dialysis and Transplantation Registry (ANZDATA) were also examined.
Results: One hundred and eighty-seven of 361 (51.8%) transplant recipients of Fitzpatrick skin types I-IV had developed 3979 histologically diagnosed NMSCs since first transplantation. The ratio of SCC/BCC was reversed from 1 : 3.7 before transplantation to 2 : 1 after transplantation. NMSC increased with duration of immunosuppression; 29.1%, 52.2%, 72.4% and 82.1% of those immunosuppressed for < 5, 5-10, 10-20 and > 20 years, respectively, had developed at least one tumour. The ANZDATA registry under-recorded the numbers of patients with NMSC by 28.4% and gave no indication of tumour numbers.
Conclusions: NMSC is a greater clinical problem in renal transplant recipients living in subtropical Queensland, Australia, than is shown by currently available registry data. This has implications for the development of prevention and surveillance strategies.