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Cancer Risk Doubles After Organ Transplant, Study Finds
Date:11/1/2011

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Nov. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Organ transplant recipients in the United States double their risk of developing cancer compared to the general population. And that risk is elevated for 32 different types of cancer, according to new research.

In any given year, however, the risk of developing cancer after a transplant is just 0.7 percent. And experts say the benefits of transplantation far outweigh such risk.

"People need to understand that transplantation is one of the great success stories of medicine. It's a very effective treatment for people with severe organ disease," explained the study's lead author, Dr. Eric Engels, a senior investigator in the infections and epidemiology branch of the division of cancer epidemiology and genetics at the U.S. National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Md.

"Our study is saying that this population has a unique pattern of cancer risk. Transplant recipients need to be carefully screened and followed," Engels added.

Results of the study are published in the Nov. 2 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In 2010, almost 30,000 solid-organ transplants were performed in the United States, according to background information in the article. Kidney transplants accounted for more than half of that total, followed by livers, hearts and lungs.

After transplant, the recipient must take powerful immune system-suppressing medications to prevent the new organ from being rejected.

But those medications put transplant recipients in a catch-22 situation, said Dr. Darla Granger, director of the pancreatic transplantation program at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit. "Suppressing the immune system does increase the risk of cancer. And, if you have cancer, you want a strong immune system to fight the cancer," she added.

Another issue with the immunosuppressants is cancers that are
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