Yes, your risk of skin cancer is increased if you received radiation therapy either as part of the initial treatment or as part of the preparation for the transplant. The effect of radiation therapy is strongest among those who received that therapy before 18 years of age at the time of treatment, but anyone who has had radiation therapy is at increased risk. Also, acute and chronic graft-versus-host disease and the medications used to treat graft-versus-host disease increase the risk of skin cancers.
For basal cell carcinoma, lighter-skinned patients are at higher risk. For either basal or squamous cell carcinoma, patients who were under age 10 at the time of their transplant are at the highest risk. For more information, see skin health.
Avoid excess ultraviolet radiation that comes from the sun, tanning booths or sun lamps. This can be accomplished in several ways:
For more information, go to prevention
No, you should continue to practice these protective strategies no matter how long ago you had your transplant. Because of your transplant, your risk of skin cancer remains increased, and actually continues to increase with additional sun exposure over time.
There are many excellent Internet sites with good information on skin cancer.
Here are two we recommend:
About 1 million people in the United States are diagnosed with skin cancer each year.
For more information, see
Skin cancer facts
No. There are three main types of skin cancer.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common, and also the most treatable type of skin cancer. Basal cell cancers seldom spread to other areas of the body, but some patients develop multiple independent cancers. Basal cell cancers usually occur in areas that have been exposed to the sun, most often on the nose. In patients who have received radiation therapy, basal cell cancers can appear anywhere in the radiation field. For patients who have had total body irradiation as part of their preparation for transplant, basal cell cancers can occur anywhere on the body.
Squamous cell carcinoma also occurs on skin areas exposed to sun, especially the face and the backs of the hands, but they can occur anywhere on the body exposed to radiation therapy. Squamous cell cancer is easily treated. If left untreated, squamous cell cancer can spread to other areas of the body.
Malignant melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Melanoma often develops from a mole and can spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma is very difficult to treat once it has spread. For more details on different types of skin cancer, see:
Basel cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma
Watch for changes in the skin such as sore, irritated or crusty areas that won't heal, new bumps or moles, or moles that grow or change shape or color. Skin cancers are generally more common in areas of the skin that have been exposed to the sun, but they can occur anywhere on the skin, especially after total-body irradiation or GVHD treatment. For more information, go to: