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

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The presence of scars on the skin can also increase the risk of SCC, although the process of carcinogenesis in this setting may take years or even decades. SCCs arising in chronic wounds are referred to as Marjolin's ulcers. The mean time for development of carcinoma in these wounds is estimated at 26 years.[34] One case report documents the occurrence of cancer in a wound that was incurred 59 years earlier.[35]

Immunosuppression

Immunosuppression also contributes to the formation of nonmelanoma skin cancers. Among solid-organ transplant recipients, the risk of SCC is 65 to 250 times higher, and the risk of BCC is 10 times higher than that observed in the general population.[36,37,38] Nonmelanoma skin cancers in high-risk patients (solid-organ transplant recipients and chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients) occur at a younger age, are more common and more aggressive, and have a higher risk of recurrence and metastatic spread when compared to these cancers in the general population.[39,40] Among patients with an intact immune system, BCCs outnumber SCCs by a 4:1 ratio; in transplant patients, SCCs outnumber BCCs by a 2:1 ratio.

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]

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WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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