August 26, 2008

Individuals With History of Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer at Greater Risk for Future Cancers

CHARLESTON, S.C., Aug. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Individuals with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC), especially those who had it at a younger age, are at significantly greater risk for future cancers, according to a study led by Anthony J. Alberg, Ph.D., of the Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina.

The study, which followed more than 19,000 people for 16 years, will be published August 26 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. After adjusting for individual variables, researchers found that individuals with a history of NMSC had a two-fold increase in the risk of new cancers compared with individuals with no skin cancer history.

Alberg's team found the greatest risk for new cancers in participants with NMSC, skin cancers most commonly caused by sun exposure, from ages 25-44 years old. Previous studies have documented that people who have had NMSC were at increased risk for developing melanoma, but it is less well-established whether they were also at risk for cancers that do not involve the skin.

"The link between nonmelanoma skin cancer and increased risk for many different types of cancer may provide valuable clues to advance what we know about the causes of cancer," said Alberg. "Right now, we do not understand why this link is present, but it suggests that skin cancer may be a marker for a characteristic, likely a genetic characteristic, that increases overall susceptibility to cancer. This certainly makes NMSC seem to be a more important part of one's personal health history than we previously thought."

The increased risk remained statistically significant when the researchers removed melanoma from the list of subsequent cancers, indicating that the elevated risk was not restricted to melanoma. The association included both types of nonmelanoma skin cancer, basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma.

Citation: Chen J, Ruczinski I, Jorgensen TJ, Yenokyan G, Yao Y, Alani R, Liegeois NJ, et al. Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer and Risk for Subsequent Malignancy. J Natl Cancer Inst 2008; 1215-1222

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