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Study Ties Skin Cancer to Future Risk of Other Cancers

Update Date: Apr 24, 2013 10:35 AM EDT

Skin cancer patients may have an increased risk of other cancers, according to a new study.

Scientists found that white people with non-melanoma skin cancer may be at an increased risk of having other forms of cancer in the future, according to a study published in PLOS Medicine.

Lead researcher Dr. Jiali Han, an Associate Professor from Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, found that men and women with a history of skin cancer other than melanoma had about a 15 percent and 26 percent, respectively, of developing another form of cancer compared with those who had no such history.

Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and includes basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma.

The study analyzed information from two large studies including the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which involved 51,529 male health professionals, and the Nurses' Health Study, which involved 121,700 female nurses. 

Researchers identified 36,102 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer and 29,447 new cases of other cancers in white participants.

When researcher excluded melanoma cases, they found that a history of non-melanoma skin cancer was linked to an 11 percent increased risk of other cancers in men and a 20 percent higher risk of other cancers in women.

After further analysis, researchers found that a having a history of non-melanoma skin cancer significantly increased a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, lung cancer and melanoma and a man's risk of developing melanoma.

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

"Because our study was observational, these results should be interpreted cautiously and are insufficient evidence to alter current clinical recommendations," researcher noted.

Nevertheless, researchers concluded that the latest findings "support a need for continued investigation of the potential mechanisms" underlying the relationship between skin cancer and other types of cancers. 

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