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Researchers: Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer Increases Risk for Other Cancers

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Friday, August 29, 2008 11:51 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA & Prescription Drugs, Cancer, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, Basal Cell Carcinoma, Melanoma, Non-Melanoma Cancers

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IMAGE SOURCE: © U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health / Skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma /

A newly released study suggests that people who are diagnosed with non-melanoma cancers like that of squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell carcinoma cancer may be at an increased risk of getting other forms of cancer as well.

The American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 1 million people are diagnosed with non-melanoma cancers in the United States each year.

Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and the National Cancer Institute examined data from more than 19,000 people. 769 of them had a history of non-melanoma cancer and 18,405 of them with no history of skin cancer.

After a 16-year duration, researchers found that the incidence of cancers was 293.5 per 10,000 person-years, among younger people with a history of skin cancer, compared to 77.8 per 10,000 among people without a history of cancer.

The study found, the younger the patient at the onset of skin cancer, the higher the risk that they would develop another form of cancer later in life.

The findings do not relate strictly to melanoma and skin cancers only, noted lead researcher Anthony Alberg, from the University of South Carolina.

The findings indicate an increased risk of different forms of cancer such as colon, lung and breast cancer, Alberg said. “Regarding prostate cancer, the trend was less and not statistically significant,” he said.

Researchers hypothesize the increased risk may be linked to weakened ability to repair DNA damage to cells caused by the sun, making them susceptible to developing non-melanoma skin cancers. We are theorizing that that may also be the association as to why there is an increased risk of cancer in general, he said.

The findings warrant further investigation to enable the future development of specific strategies for patients with non-melanoma cancers.

Basal cell carcinoma appears as raised, smooth bumps on the areas of skin most exposed to the sun, whereas squamous cell carcinoma typically looks like red, scaling and thickened patches of skin, also most likely on sun-exposed skin. Both forms of cancer are far less dangerous than that of melanoma.

Awareness and testing are vitally important for safety and prevention, said Dr. Martin Weinstock, chair of the skin cancer advisory committee of the American Cancer Society.

The study is published in the August 26 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

In another recent study, researchers found cancerous cells give off a scent and are working to identify an “odor profile” to more easily detect skin cancers in a noninvasive way. #


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