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Adv Exp Med Biol. 2008;624:203-14. doi: 10.1007/978-0-387-77574-6_16.

Solar UV-radiation, vitamin D and skin cancer surveillance in organ transplant recipients (OTRs).

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Clinic for Dermatology, Venerology and Allergology, The Saarland University Hospital, 66421 Homburg/Saar, Germany.


The introduction of organ transplantation in clinical medicine has resulted in a constantly increasing, large population of patients that are chronically on immunosuppressive medication. It is well known that skin cancer, especially SCC, in this population has higher incidence rates, behaves more aggressively and has higher rates of metastasis. OTRs who have been treated for many years with immunosuppressive medication are at the highest risk for developing malignant skin tumors. Therefore, the intensity of surveillance for cutaneous lesions is of high importance in OTRs. A full-body skin exam at least once a year and more frequently if skin cancer or precancerous cutaneous lesions develop is recommended. Clinicians should not hesitate to biopsy or to surgically excise any suspicious skin lesion. Of high importance is also the education of OTRs about their increased risk. Protection against solar and artificial UV-radiation and monthly self-examinations are good ways to prevent and to recognize any new suspicious skin lesions. Patients are advised to always wear solar UV-radiation protection (e.g., clothing, sunscreen) before going outdoors. However, investigations have revealed that solar UV-B-exposure and serum 25(OH)D levels positively correlate with decreased risk for various internal malignancies (e.g., breast, colon, prostate and ovarian cancer) and other severe diseases. As we have shown previously, renal transplant recipients are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency. A sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF)-8 reduces the skin's production of vitamin D by 95%. Clothing completely blocks all solar UVB-radiation and this prevents any vitamin D production. Therefore, it is important to detect and treat vitamin D deficiency in solid organ transplant recipients. Optimal management of these patients requires communication between the transplant teams and the treating dermatologist and other clinicians. For advanced or metastatic disease, collaboration between clinicians of different disciplines, including the transplant team, dermatologists and radiation oncologists is also essential. In the future, dermatology clinics that are integrated into transplant centers may make it easier to manage and to treat OTRs, may make an interdisciplinary approach more effective and may thereby improve the clinical outcome in OTRs.

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