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Benign Skin Cancer May Increase Risk for Other Cancers

August 27, 2008

On Tuesday researchers revealed that people who have had benign forms of skin cancer have twice the risk of developing other forms of cancer.

Researcher said the risk is chiefly distinct among younger people and proposes that people who have suffered from benign forms of skin cancer may be more cancer-prone all together.

“It seems like non-melanoma skin cancer, even though it is a non-fatal disease, may be a warning sign for increased risk of other, more serious cancers,” said Anthony Alberg, a researcher at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.  Alberg’s study appears in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

According to the American Cancer Society, non-melanoma skin cancers affect nearly 1 million people annually in the U.S.

“It is far and away the most common form of cancer,” Alberg said.

Other studies have shown that people with these types of skin cancers are more prone to developing melanoma, a deadly type of skin cancer.

Alberg suggests that non-melanoma skin cancer may lead to higher risk for other types of cancer.

Alberg and his team researched data from a 16-year study held in Washington County, Maryland.  The study compared cancer risks among 769 people with non-melanoma skin cancer and 18,405 people with no history of skin cancer.

“People with a personal history of non-melanoma skin cancer were two times more likely to develop a subsequent cancer compared to people without a personal history of non-melanoma skin cancer,” Alberg said.

The differences didn’t go away when Alberg adjusted for age, obesity, smoking history, level of education, sun exposure, and skin type.

Those who developed skin cancer from the ages of 25-44 had 2.6 times higher risk of developing other cancers.

“The results were pretty clear in showing the earlier the age of developing non-melanoma skin cancer, the higher the increased risk for subsequent malignancies,” Alberg said.

Alberg believes the findings also suggest that some people have a genetic makeup that lends itself to skin cancer, and may also lend itself to other types of cancer.

He believes it has something to do with a person’s ability to repair the DNA in skin cells that are damaged by ultraviolet radiation from sunlight.

“If they are less adept at that, their risk for skin cancer increases,” Alberg said.

Alberg also recommended that people who have had benign skin cancer mention it to their doctor.

“It seems to be a more important part of a personal health history than we thought before,” he said.

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On The Net:

American Cancer Society

Journal of the National Cancer Institute




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