Skin Cancer May Increase the Risk of Other Cancers

According to a new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine, if one gets skin cancer in an abnormal frequency, the risk for him to get other cancers, such as blood cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer, may be increased. That is because skin cancer can cause mutations in a panel of proteins that are responsible for repairing DNA damage.

One of the researchers, Kavita Sarin, MD, Ph.D., assistant professor of dermatology, said: “We discovered that people who develop 6 or more skin cancer during a 10-year period are about 3 times more likely than the general population to develop other, unrelated cancers. We’re hopeful that this finding could be a way to identify people at an increased risk for a life-threatening malignancy before those cancers develop.”

The skin is the largest organ of people, and long-term exposure to sun may cause damage to the skin and DNA. Usually, proteins in the body can repair the damage, but sometimes they can’t work normally. In this situation, the risk of getting other cancers may be increased.

The researchers of this study have studied 61 people treated at Stanford Health Care for unusually frequent skin cancer with an average of 11 per patient over a 10-year period. As to the finding, Sarin said that they found that about 20 percent of the people with frequent skin cancer have a mutation in one of the genes responsible for repairing DNA damage, versus about 3 percent of the general population. That’s shockingly high.

In order to confirm their findings, the researchers applied a similar study to a large medical insurance claims database. They found that more than 13,000 people in the database had 6 or more skin cancers. And these people are also 3 times more likely to get other cancers.

“I was surprised to see such a strong correlation,” Sarin said. “But it’s also very gratifying. Now we can ask patients with repeated skin cancer whether they have family members with other types of cancers, and perhaps suggest that they consider genetic testing and increased screening.”

The researchers are still making efforts to find more new information. And they also emphasized that skin cancer is highly treatable and people with occasional skin cancer don’t need to worry too much.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.