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Skin Cancer May Increase Risk of Other Cancers

By September 4, 2008

Previous research has shown being diagnosed with basal or squamous cell cancer can increase the future likelihood of getting melanoma. In a new study, Anthony Alberg, PhD, of the Medical University of South Carolina and colleagues have now unearthed a new link between these nonmelanoma skin cancers and cancers unrelated to the skin.

After adjusting for other known variables associated with cancer risk, including age, sex, body mass index, smoking status, and education level, the researchers found that individuals with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer had a two-fold increase in the risk of subsequent cancers compared with individuals with no skin cancer history. The strongest association was seen in the youngest study participants, aged 25 to 44 years.

There are several weaknesses in this study, however. For example, the results may simply be due to the fact that people with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer may have been more likely than those without such a history to receive regular medical care that would detect the other cancers. Also, information about skin type and sunburn history were not available to the researchers, which introduces some uncertainty into the results.

Finally, remember that this is only one study and it only showed a correlation (association), so there is no reason to be excessively concerned. However, the clear lesson is that everybody who has had a cancerous skin lesion removed needs to be extra vigilant about performing regular skin exams and scheduling annual physicals.


Chen J, Ruczinski I, Jorgensen TJ, Yenokyan G, Yao Y, Alani R, Liégeois NJ, Hoffman SC, Hoffman-Bolton J, Strickland PT, Helzlsouer KJ, Alberg AJ. "Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer and Risk for Subsequent Malignancy." J Natl Cancer Inst 26 August 2008: 1215–1222.

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