Organ recipients are three times more likely to get cancer.
A new study has come to some unfortunate conclusions about people who receive a life-saving organ transplant: they’re much, much more likely to get cancer than before.
The study, conducted by a research team led by Dr. Nancy Baxter, chief of general surgery at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, found that those who had received an organ transplant were a whopping three times more likely to die from cancer than those who had not, according to a HealthDay News report. The findings were published in the journal JAMA Oncology.
And that spanned across all age groups, although younger patients were even more likely. It applied to pretty much all known forms of cancer.
Cancer is the No. 2 killer of organ recipients, behind only heart disease, based on data spanning from 1991 to 2010 and including 11,000 transplant patients who had received kidneys, livers, lungs, or even hearts.
A total of 3,000 people died out of those 11,000 patients, and 600 of them were related to cancer — about 5 percent of all patients.
While the medical community has long been aware of the increased rate of cancer among transplant recipients, what wasn’t clear was whether patients were more likly to actually die from the cancer. Up until this study, it had been hard to tell because there are so many complications that can arise from a transplant.
Skin cancers appear to be a particularly big problem. The study found that non-melanoma skin cancers killed transplant recipients 30 times more often than those who had not had a transplant.
“Despite the fact that SOTRs have shorter life expectancies and a higher risk of dying of non-cancer-related causes, these patients have an elevated risk of cancer death as compared with the general population. Addressing the cancer burden in SOTRs is critical to improving the survival of these patients,” the authors of the study concluded in a statement.