Skin Cancer after Organ Transplant
The Sunshine State has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the country. But the illness is especially common in those taking immunosuppressive drugs—typically after undergoing an organ transplant—because these medications weaken the body’s natural defenses. In fact, these patients develop 64 times as many squamous cell carcinomas, ten times as many basal cell carcinomas, and three times as many melanoma cases as the general population.
Hope in a pill
The numbers are alarming, to be sure. But for the handful of patients in our practice taking immunosuppressive drugs, we’ve found very effective ways to manage the increased risk. An oral retinoid called Soriatane (generic: Acitretin), has proven to decrease the numbers of new cancers dramatically in people taking immunosuppressive drugs.
Created to treat severe psoriasis, the vitamin A derivative isn’t for everyone: For one thing, you must take it for life—not a fun prospect for those already juggling several other drug regimens. Soriatane is off-limits for pregnant- or breastfeeding women, and requires regular blood tests to monitor triglycerides (cholesterol).
A balanced approach
Given those drawbacks, we think before turning to our prescription pad. Patients taking immunosuppressive drugs come in every 3 to 6 months, allowing us to keep up with—and remove—cancers while they’re still small. If tumors start popping up too quickly, interfere with a patient’s lifestyle, or cause morbidity, we consider Soriatane.
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