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Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer Ups Risk for Other Cancers

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter
Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2008; 5:00 PM

Copyright © 2008 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.

TUESDAY, Aug. 26 (HealthDay News) -- People with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer face twice the risk of developing other malignancies, a new study finds.

Every year in the United States, about 1 million people are diagnosed with nonmelanoma skin cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. Developing these tumors is known to increase the risk for melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. But the link between skin cancer and cancers at other body sites is just beginning to be explored.

Now, researchers reporting online Aug. 26 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute say that a history of nonmelanoma lesions doubles the odds for a subsequent cancer. "That's not just cancer related to melanoma or other skin cancers," noted lead researcher Anthony Alberg, from the Medical University of South Carolina.

In this study, the increased risk was seen for lung cancer, colon and breast cancer, Alberg said. "For prostate cancer, the trend was in the direction of increased risk, but the association was weaker and not statistically significant," he said.

Alberg believes the increased risk may be due to a weakened ability to repair DNA damage to cells. "People who have suboptimal ability to repair DNA damage that the sun can cause are far more likely to get nonmelanoma skin cancer. We are hypothesizing that that might also be the link to why there is a greater increased cancer risk in general," he said.

For the study, Alberg's team looked at the risk of developing cancer among 769 people with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer. The researchers compared these people to 18,405 people with no history of skin cancer.

Over 16 years of follow-up, the researchers found that the incidence of cancers was 293.5 per 10,000 person-years among people with a history of skin cancer, compared to 77.8 per 10,000 among people without a history of the disease.

In addition, the younger a person got a nonmelanoma skin cancer, the higher his or her risk of developing other cancers, Alberg said.

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