Cancer Risk Higher in Transplant Recipients

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Infection-related and unrelated cancers develop more frequently in solid organ transplant recipients than in the general population, according to researchers.

In a study of data from 175,732 solid organ transplant recipients (58.4% kidney, 21.6% liver, 10% heart, and 4.0% lung), investigators found that 10,656 were diagnosed with malignancies, twice the number of malignancies expected to occur in the same number of individuals in the general population.

The incidence of cancers of the kidney and urinary bladder were 4.65 and 1.52 times higher in the transplant population than would be expected in the general population, researchers reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association (2011;306(17):1891-1901). The study, led by Eric A. Engels, MD, MPH, of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., found that the incidence of kidney cancer was 6.6 times greater among kidney transplant recipients than would be expected in the general population.

The incidences of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and lung cancer were 7.54 and 1.97 times higher.

Liver cancer risk was elevated only among liver transplant recipients, in whom the incidence of the malignancy was nearly 44 times greater than would be expected in the general population, according to the investigators.

The authors concluded: “Some malignancies arise from the loss of immunologic control of oncogenic viruses, but others are unrelated to known infections. Additional contributing factors for some cancers may include other effects of chronic immune disturbance or inflammation, underlying medical conditions, or medication toxicity.”

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