Skin cancer linked to future risk of other cancers

White people who have types of skin cancer other than melanoma (nonmelanoma skin cancer) may be at increased risk of having other forms of cancer in the future, according to a new study.

Nonmelanoma skin cancers are the most common form of cancer in the United States, and they include basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. This analysis, led by Jiali Han, PhD, of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, found that men and women with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancers, including basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, had a 15% and 26% increased risk, respectively, of developing another form of cancer compared with those who had no such history.

The researchers reached these conclusions by analyzing information from two large US cohort studies that they followed through 2008. They analyzed the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which enrolled 51,529 male health professionals in 1986, and the Nurses' Health Study, which enrolled 121,700 female nurses in 1976. Their study was published in PLOS Medicine (2013; doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001433).

The authors identified 36,102 new cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer and 29,447 new cases of other cancers in white participants. When excluding melanoma, the authors found that a history of non-melanoma skin cancer was linked to an 11% higher risk of other cancers in men and a 20% higher risk of other cancers in women. After correction for multiple comparisons, the authors found that a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer was significantly linked to an increased risk of breast and lung cancer in women and of melanoma in both men and women.

"This prospective study found a modestly increased risk of subsequent malignancies among individuals with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer, specifically breast and lung cancer in women and melanoma in both men and women," wrote the authors.

They continued, "Because our study was observational, these results should be interpreted cautiously and are insufficient evidence to alter current clinical recommendations. Nevertheless, these data support a need for continued investigation of the potential mechanisms underlying this relationship."
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