Cancer risks after solid organ transplantation and after long-term dialysis

Int J Cancer. 2017 Mar 1;140(5):1091-1101. doi: 10.1002/ijc.30531.


Immunosuppression involves an inability to control virus infections and increased incidence of virus-associated cancers. Some cancers without known viral etiology are also increased, but data on exactly which cancer forms are increased has been inconsistent. To provide a reliable and generalizable estimate, with high statistical power and long follow-up time, we assessed cancer risks using comprehensive, population-based registries in two different countries and from two different immunosuppressed patient groups (solid organ transplant recipients (OTRs) and long-term dialysis patients (LDPs)). National registries in Denmark and Sweden identified 20,804 OTRs and 31,140 LDPs that were followed up using national cancer registries. Standardized incidence ratios (SIR) compared to the general population were estimated. We found highly similar results, both for the two different countries and for the two different immunosuppressed cohorts, namely an increased incidence for the following specific cancer forms: Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC), non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and cancers of the lip, kidney, larynx and thyroid. The SIR for overall cancer among OTRs was 3.5 [n = 2,142, 95% CI, 3.4-3.7] in Sweden, 2.9 [n = 1,110, 95% CI, 2.8-3.1] in Denmark and 1.6 [n = 1,713, 95% CI, 1.5-1.6] among LDP. The SIR for NMSC among OTRs was 44.7 [n = 994, 95% CI, 42-47.5] in Sweden and 41.5 [n = 445, 95% CI, 37.8-45.5] in Denmark. The increased SIR for NMSC among LDPs was 5.3 [n = 304, 95% CI, 4.7-5.9]). In summary, an increased SIR for a specific, similar set of cancer forms is consistently found among the immunosuppressed. Conceivable explanations include surveillance bias and immunosuppression-related susceptibility to viral infections.

Keywords: cancer; immunosuppression; long-term dialysis; solid organ transplantation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Incidence
  • Kidney Diseases / immunology
  • Kidney Diseases / surgery
  • Kidney Diseases / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Organ Transplantation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / immunology
  • Registries
  • Renal Dialysis / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Transplantation Immunology