Skin Cancer and Transplant Patients
Sun! Many of us know to protect our skin, but if you’re a kidney transplant recipient, it is especially critical!
Dr. Steven F. Wolfe is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology and Board Certified with a practice in Mooresville, North Carolina. He received his MD from UC San Francisco and trained at UCLA and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Dr. Wolfe tells transplant recipients why they must be aware, “The immune suppression required to protect you from rejecting your kidney transplant substantially increases your risk of developing skin cancer. Unfortunately you can't change your exposure from the past, (growing up and prior to your kidney transplant) but you can protect rigorously once you've had a transplant. Remember, you already have one strike against you--the medicines that prevent rejection. Don't add another preventable strike--unprotected sun exposure.”
Kidney transplant recipient and AAKP Board of Director, Kent Bressler received a kidney transplant from his brother thirty-one years ago. “My Nephrologist Transplant specialist advised me to cover up. I have used sunscreen SPF 50. Most damage to the skin usually occurs in your much younger years. I burned a lot as a kid in the corn and bean fields of Nebraska. As soon as I started Cyclosporine, it just accelerated the process. I have gone to a dermatologist every three months. My advice to all pre and post-transplant patients is to go in before transplant for a top to bottom exam to document your skins condition.”
It’s not just Cyclosporine that adds the risk. Dr. Wolfe adds, “You have a dramatically increased risk of developing skin cancer after a transplant so you want to do everything you can to mitigate against that risk. And remember this, skin cancers in transplant patients can be far more serious than those in patients without a transplant. These skin cancers can be more aggressive, grow deeper, penetrate vital structures, spread to lymph nodes, metastasize, and recur more commonly. They are often harder to treat and can require more deforming surgeries or additional treatments such as radiation.”
In 2006 when AAKP Vice President and Board of Director, Richard Knight received his kidney transplant, he was not formally told then of the risk of skin cancer. It was the nurse who mentioned it to him on his follow up visits. One time while in the waiting room to see his doctor, another patient pointed out to Richard, ‘Despite the fact that you are an African American man, you still need to wear sunscreen and be aware of the higher risk skin cancer is to kidney transplant recipients.’ Knight said, “That was when I really thought about it!”
This post is submitted by one of our patient co-investigators, Suzanne Ruff. Suzanne is one of the only people in her family without kidney disease, though she is a proud living kidney donor!
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