Organ transplant recipients are twice as likely to develop melanoma compared with people who do not undergo a transplant, a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology has shown.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from nearly 140,000 non-Hispanic white transplant recipients who participated in the Transplant Cancer Match Study. Of those, there were 519 cases of melanoma.

Results showed that the risk of invasive melanoma was 2.2 times higher among transplant recipients than the general population, particularly for regional stage disease. In addition, melanona-specific mortality was approximately 3 times higher among transplant recipients.

Continue Reading

“We knew that melanoma was more likely in transplant recipients, but we thought it might be a function of intensive screening since they are very likely to develop less deadly forms of skin cancer and are checked regularly by dermatologists,” said Hilary A. Robbins, MSPH, a PhD student in the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in Baltimore, MD. She conducted much of the research while working at the National Cancer Institute.

“To the contrary, we were surprised to see that transplant recipients were particularly at risk for developing melanomas that weren’t found until they had already spread.”

RELATED: Sunitinib Shows Activity in Mucosal, Acral Melanoma

The researchers also found that late-stage cases of melanoma were associated with T-cell depleting induction therapy given at the time of transplant, while azathioprine may be associated with early-stage tumors.

The findings suggest that sun safety practices and skin screening are important for organ transplant recipients.


  1. Robbins HA, Clarke CA, Arron ST, et al. Melanoma risk and survival among organ transplant recipients. J Invest Dermatol. 2015. [epub ahead of print]. doi: 10.1038/jid.2015.312.