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Cancer After Organ Transplants

CKF partnered with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance for this informational post. We want everyone to be safe and healthy to #livelifegivelife

Organ transplants are life-saving procedures for many patients, and one organ donor can save up to eight lives. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), there were 8,510 organ transplants performed between January and March of 2018. While the benefits of receiving a long-awaited organ are too numerous to list it’s important to be cognizant of possible complications.

One such worry that patients should discuss with their physicians is the incidence of a cancer diagnosis following an organ transplant. According to a study conducted in 2006, about 20 percent of patients will have some form of cancer five years after lung transplantation. The same study recorded the first ever case of malignant mesothelioma in a post-lung transplant patient who had no known asbestos exposure. Exposure to the carcinogenic mineral is the only known cause of this rare cancer. Prior to this case, there was no evidence of risk for developing mesothelioma following a transplant.

While rare, such a case is fathomable. Most malignancies in transplant recipients are viral and occur in patients who are on a course of immunosuppressants. According to data from the Cincinnati transplant registry at the University of Cincinnati, there is a three- to four-fold increase in cancer incidence among patients with immunosuppressed organs. They found higher rates of skin cancers in these patients, along with cancers of the lip and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, among others.

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