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History of nonmelanoma raises more cancer risks

Individuals with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSK), especially those who had it at a younger age, face a significantly greater risk for future cancers, according to a study led by Anthony J. Alberg, Ph.D., of Hollings Cancer Center.
In the multi-center, 16-year study of more than 19,000 people, Alberg’s team found the greatest risk for new cancers was in people ages 25-44 with NMSK (skin cancers most commonly related to sun exposure). After adjusting for individual variables, researchers found that individuals with a history of NMSC had a twofold increased risk of new and future cancer compared to individuals with no skin cancer history.
“The link between nonmelanoma skin cancer and increased risk for many different types of cancer may provide valuable clues to advance what we know about the causes of cancer,” Alberg said. “Right now, we do not understand why this link is present, but it suggests that skin cancer may be a marker for a characteristic, likely a genetic characteristic, that increases overall susceptibility to cancer. This certainly makes NMSC seem to be a more important part of one’s personal health history than we previously thought.”
The study was published Aug. 26 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Previous studies have documented that people who have had NMSK were at increased risk for developing melanoma, but it is less well-established whether they were also at risk for cancers that do not involve the skin.
Researchers compared the risk of malignancies in 769 individuals who had been diagnosed with NMSK, and 18,405 individuals with no history of the disease during a 16-year follow-up period.
The overall incidence of cancers was 293.5 cases per 10,000 in participants with a history of NMSK, and 77.8 per 10,000 in those without it.
The increased risk remained statistically significant when the researchers removed melanoma from the list of subsequent cancers, indicating that the elevated risk was not restricted to melanoma. The association included both types of nonmelanoma skin cancer, basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma.

Friday, Sept. 12, 2008
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