Skin cancer in kidney transplant recipients

J Nephrol. 2014 Aug;27(4):385-94. doi: 10.1007/s40620-014-0098-4. Epub 2014 May 9.


Morbidity and mortality due to skin cancer is excessively high in renal transplant recipients compared to the general population. This epidemiologic difference is mainly due to the severe immunosuppression that enhances ultraviolet-induced DNA damage and leads to reactivation of potential oncogenic viruses. The most common skin cancer in transplant recipients is squamous cell carcinoma followed by basal cell carcinoma, while in the general population this ratio is reversed. Melanoma and cutaneous lymphoma are relatively rare although they occur more frequently in transplant patients than in the general population. Notably some tumors, such as Kaposi's sarcoma, are seldom encountered in the general population while they are frequently observed in transplant recipients. Local recurrences and visceral spreading are not so uncommon and pose a major issue for quality of life and overall prognosis of these patients. Timely diagnosis is essential and may be challenging, since the accuracy of clinical diagnosis is modest; thus skin biopsy is an essential tool for appropriate management. In this review, we describe the most common types of skin cancer in renal transplant recipients, with a focus on pathogenic issues that account for the different epidemiology and clinical expression of these neoplasms in this population.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / epidemiology*
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / etiology
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / therapy
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / epidemiology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / etiology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / therapy
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Incidence
  • Keratosis, Actinic / epidemiology
  • Kidney Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Lymphoma, T-Cell, Cutaneous / pathology
  • Lymphoma, T-Cell, Cutaneous / therapy
  • Melanoma / epidemiology*
  • Melanoma / etiology
  • Prevalence
  • Sarcoma, Kaposi / epidemiology*
  • Sarcoma, Kaposi / etiology
  • Sarcoma, Kaposi / therapy
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / etiology
  • Skin Neoplasms / therapy
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects