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Cancer Health Center

Does Skin Cancer Lead to Other Cancers?

Study Shows Link Between Skin Cancer and Higher Incidence of Other Cancers Not Related to the Skin
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 26, 2008 -- If you have skin cancer, are your chances of getting another type of cancer greater?

A new study seems to support that.

It looked at people who had been diagnosed with nonmelanoma skin cancer and whether they developed other cancers.

Nonmelanoma skin cancer is the most common cancer. There are two types, basal cell and squamous cell. It is usually not fatal.

Melanoma is the deadliest skin cancer. Past research has shown that people who have had non-melanoma skin cancers have a greater risk of developing melanoma.

Researchers, led by Jiping Chen, MD, PhD, of the National Cancer Institute and Anthony Alberg, PhD, MPH, at the Medical University of South Carolina looked at data from 19,174 people listed in a Maryland county (Washington County) cancer registry.

They followed people with and without nonmelanoma skin cancer for more than 16 years from 1989 to 2005, to see the risk of developing other types of malignancies (non-skin cancers). What they found was:

  • People who had been diagnosed with either basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer had double the risk of developing another type of cancer when compared to those with no history of the disease.
  • Younger people (those 25-44) who had been diagnosed with skin cancer had what the study authors call the "strongest association" with developing another form of cancer.

Researchers took into account variables such as age, sex, body mass index, sun exposure, smoking history, and their educational level.

Study authors write that their research does have limits.

The pool of participants was taken from just one county in Maryland.

People who had a previous cancer diagnosis are much more likely than those without such a history to get more regular medical care that could lead to increased detection of other cancers.

The results are published in the Aug. 26 online version of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

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