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Genetics of Skin Cancer (PDQ®): Genetics - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Squamous Cell Carcinoma

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This increased risk has been linked to an interaction between the level of immunosuppression and UV radiation exposure. As the duration and dosage of immunosuppressive agents increase, so does the risk of cutaneous malignancy; this effect is reversed with decreasing the dosage of, or taking a break from, immunosuppressive agents. Heart transplant recipients, requiring the highest rates of immunosuppression, are at much higher risk of cutaneous malignancy than liver transplant recipients, in whom much lower levels of immunosuppression are needed to avoid rejection.[36,41] The risk appears to be highest in geographic areas with high UV exposure. When comparing Australian and Dutch organ transplant populations, the Australian patients carried a fourfold increased risk of developing SCC and a fivefold increased risk of developing BCC.[42] This finding underlines the importance of rigorous sun avoidance, particularly among high-risk immunosuppressed individuals.

Certain immunosuppressive agents have been associated with increased risk of SCC. Kidney transplant patients who received cyclosporine in addition to azathioprine and prednisolone had a 2.8-fold increase in risk of SCC over those kidney transplant patients on azathioprine and prednisolone alone.[36] In cardiac transplant patients, increased incidence of SCC was seen in individuals who had received OKT3 (muromonab-CD3), a murine monoclonal antibody against the CD3 receptor.[43]

Personal history of nonmelanoma skin cancer

A personal history of BCC or SCC is strongly associated with subsequent SCC. A study from Ireland showed that individuals with a history of BCC had a 14% higher incidence of subsequent SCC; for men with a history of BCC, the subsequent SCC risk was 27% higher.[44] In the same report, individuals with melanoma were also 2.5 times more likely to report a subsequent SCC. There is an approximate 20% increased risk of a subsequent lesion within the first year after a skin cancer has been diagnosed. The mean age of occurrence for these nonmelanoma skin cancers is the middle of the sixth decade of life.[26,45,46,47,48,49]

Family history of squamous cell carcinoma or associated premalignant lesions

Although the literature is scant on this subject, a family history of SCC may increase the risk of SCC in first-degree relatives (FDRs). Review of the Swedish Family Center Database showed that individuals with at least one sibling or parent affected with SCC, in situ SCC (Bowen disease), or actinic keratosis had a twofold to threefold increased risk of invasive and in situ SCC relative to the general population.[50,51] Increased number of tumors in parents was associated with increased risk to the offspring. Of note, diagnosis of the proband at an earlier age was not consistently associated with a trend of increased incidence of SCC in the FDR, as would be expected in most hereditary syndromes because of germline mutations. Further analysis of the Swedish population-based data estimates genetic risk effects of 8% and familial shared-environmental effects of 18%.[52] Thus, shared environmental and behavioral factors likely account for some of the observed familial clustering of SCC.

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