Skin Cancer History Could Link to Other Cancer Risks, Study Finds

Health & Fitness

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Photodisc/Thinkstock(BOSTON) — Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. But could a person’s skin cancer history hold clues about their overall cancer risk? A research says it could.

In a study published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine, researchers found that people with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer had an increased risk of getting cancer in the future, specifically breast and lung cancer in women and melanoma in both men and women.

Previous smaller studies have shown that a skin cancer history may indicate risk of developing other cancers. Now in this larger study, researchers analyzed data from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Nurses’ Health Study. They evaluated over 150,000 white health professionals from 1986 to 2008, and identified more than 36,000 skin cancers and over 29,000 other types of cancer, including prostate and breast.

Having a history of skin cancer was associated with an 11-percent increased risk for other types of non-melanoma cancers in men — 20 percent in women.   

Many of these people already had a medical exam within two years of their diagnosis with the skin cancer, an indicator that increased screening of people with skin cancers may not be very helpful in preventing other types of cancer.  

Furthermore, the researchers say the findings should be interpreted with caution.

“Because our study was observational, these results should be interpreted cautiously and are insufficient evidence to alter current clinical recommendations,” said Jiali Han, PhD, Channing Division of Network Medicine, BWH Department of Medicine and BWH Department of Dermatology. “Nevertheless, these data support a need for continued investigation of the potential mechanisms underlying this relationship.”

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