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Life After an Organ Transplant: Understanding Your Increased Skin Cancer Risk

Life After an Organ Transplant: Understanding Your Increased Skin Cancer Risk

Each year in the United States, surgeons perform nearly 30,000 organ transplants. While such a procedure may preserve your health or save your life, it comes with various risks — including an increased likelihood of skin cancer.

Dermatologic surgeon and skin cancer specialist, Ali Hendi, MD, serving the Washington, DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia areas, provides transplant dermatology care to help keep you and your skin as healthy as possible. 

If you’ve received an organ transplant or plan to, read on to learn more about related skin cancer risks, including what to do about them.

Why an organ transplant raises your skin cancer risk

Compared to the general population, a transplanted organ raises your risk for skin cancer up to 100 times. This spike stems from immunosuppressive medications you’re required to take. 

While these drugs are essential for staving off rejection and promoting your new organ’s survival, they have a downside. By suppressing your immune function, these medications lower your body’s ability to resist illnesses, including skin cancer.

Types of skin cancer linked with organ transplants

While you might develop any kind of skin cancer as an organ donation patient, particular types are most likely, including:

Of these, squamous cell carcinoma is the most likely. Thankfully, it’s a very treatable form of cancer and is typically curable with early detection. Melanoma is both the least common and most dangerous form.

What to do about your skin cancer risk after an organ transplant

Understanding that you hold a heightened risk for skin cancer after your organ transplant can help ensure you stay proactive in protecting your health and skin. Dr. Hendi may recommend skin cancer surveillance

This noninvasive exam scans your skin from head to toe for signs of cancer, including areas you’d have difficulty seeing on your own. With early detection, even melanoma tends to be highly treatable.

You can lower your risk for skin cancer by protecting your skin from ultraviolet (UV) rays, which stem from the sun and tanning beds. To do so, consider these steps:

Signs that a mole or lesion may be cancerous include jagged edges, rapid changes, large in size (larger than a pencil eraser), cracking or bleeding, and asymmetry. If it turns out that a mole does point to skin cancer, minimally invasive Mohs surgery is a highly effective treatment.

Dr. Hendi and our team provide personalized recommendations to help you breathe easier as far as your skin cancer risks go. The fact that you’re reading up on this issue is a sign you’re on the right track.

To learn more about skin cancer risks after an organ transplant or to get the care you need, call 301-812-4591 or book an appointment online with the practice of Ali Hendi, MD, in Chevy Chase, Maryland, today.

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