Skin cancers in renal-transplant recipients occur more frequently than previously recognized in a temperate climate

Transplantation. 2004 Feb 27;77(4):574-9. doi: 10.1097/


Background: Renal-transplant recipients are at increased risk of developing skin cancers, especially squamous cell carcinoma. We have carried out a comprehensive epidemiologic review of skin cancers occurring in a population receiving transplants in Oxford over a 21-year period, where nearly all patients have remained under the care of the Oxford Transplant Centre.

Methods: Between 1975 and 1996, 1,360 renal transplants were performed in 1,115 patients. Skin cancer data were reviewed in 979 patients from this group who remained under the care of the Oxford Transplant Centre. The lesions included in the analysis were histologically confirmed basal cell carcinoma, Bowen's disease, squamous cell carcinoma, keratoacanthoma, malignant melanoma, Merkel cell tumor, and sebaceous carcinoma.

Results: One hundred eighty-seven (19.1%) transplant patients developed at least one skin malignancy. The rate of skin cancer was 141 per 1,000 person years at risk. Sixty-four percent of patients with skin cancer had multiple lesions (maximum 50). Squamous cell carcinoma was the most common skin cancer to develop and the most common first skin cancer to present. The mean time to presentation of the first skin cancer was 8 years. Six patients developed nodal metastases, and two patients died secondary to skin cancer. Risk factors identified were increasing age at transplantation, recipient sex, total time of exposure to immunosuppression, increased creatinine levels at 1 year, and graft relation. The cumulative incidence of skin cancer reached 61% at 20 years after transplantation.

Conclusion: The data from this study suggest that more patients develop skin malignancies than previously reported from Europe. It is important to advise patients before transplantation in regard to skin complications, provide regular dermatological follow-up, and tailor immunosuppressive regimen to minimum doses to be compatible with good graft function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / epidemiology
  • Climate*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Kidney Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / mortality