Dermatology Clinic for the Special Needs of Transplant Patients

Patients who have undergone organ transplant are at significantly higher risk for developing skin cancer, up to 100 times more than the general population. This increased risk occurs because of the life-long immunosuppressant medications that transplant patients must take to avoid organ rejection. In partnership with the Henry Ford Transplant Institute, the Department of Dermatology offers a special Dermatology Clinic for Transplant Patients, ensuring that skin cancer is detected early and offering the greatest chance for a cure.

Transplant patients with an even higher risk of skin cancer include those with a history of precancerous skin lesions called actinic keratoses, a prior history of skin cancer, older age at the time of transplantation, duration and intensity of immunosuppression medications, and the type of organ transplanted.

Several types of skin cancer can occur in transplant patients, most often squamous cell carcinoma. Transplant patients have an estimated 5 percent risk of developing skin cancer at five years post-transplant and up to a 10 percent risk at 10 years post-transplant. The rate of metastasis, the spread of skin cancer beyond the skin to other body locations, is three to four times higher in transplant patients than the average person. This can be life threatening, which is why it's so important for transplant patients to be closely monitored by a dermatologist.

A full-skin examination is important, a head to toe evaluation of the skin. This includes examination of the scalp, fingernails, toenails, oral cavity, and genital/anal mucosal surfaces. In patients who have a history of skin cancer, evaluation includes the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, and groin regions. This full skin examination helps to detect any pre-cancerous lesion or skin cancer as early as possible.

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