Cancer in kidney transplant recipients

Nat Rev Nephrol. 2018 Aug;14(8):508-520. doi: 10.1038/s41581-018-0022-6.


Cancer is the second most common cause of mortality and morbidity in kidney transplant recipients after cardiovascular disease. Kidney transplant recipients have at least a twofold higher risk of developing or dying from cancer than the general population. The increased risk of de novo and recurrent cancer in transplant recipients is multifactorial and attributed to oncogenic viruses, immunosuppression and altered T cell immunity. Transplant candidates and potential donors should be screened for cancer as part of the assessment process. For potential recipients with a prior history of cancer, waiting periods of 2-5 years after remission - largely depending on the cancer type and stage of initial cancer diagnosis - are recommended. Post-transplantation cancer screening needs to be tailored to the individual patient, considering the cancer risk of the individual, comorbidities, overall prognosis and the screening preferences of the patient. In kidney transplant recipients diagnosed with cancer, treatment includes conventional approaches, such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy, together with consideration of altering immunosuppression. As the benefits of transplantation compared with dialysis in potential transplant candidates with a history of cancer have not been assessed, current clinical practice relies on evidence from observational studies and registry analyses.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinogenesis / immunology
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / etiology*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / surgery
  • Kidney Transplantation*
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors