We are always on the lookout for elements that could trigger cancer, but often, we forget that precancers exist as well. This is even more important for a unique set of people: organ transplant recipients, who are far more vulnerable to developing skin cancer than others.
Although these patients are aware of this, others may be surprised to know that accelerated cancer on sun-exposed skin is a major concern for organ transplant recipients. They often experience the early onset of actinic keratosis (AK) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCC), the second most common form of skin cancer. Moreover, they are more susceptible to the spread of SCC than the general populations.
That’s why I’m excited to discuss a new and effective strategy to prevent the onset of both these cancers: prophylactic photodynamic therapy (PDT) - yes, that’s quite a mouthful! PDT was tested on 50 renal transplant recipients.They underwent twice-yearly, split-side PDT on their face, forearm and hand, with the opposite side acting as the untreated control. After 3 years of follow-up, 50% of patients had AKs on their untreated side, compared with 26% on the PDT side. The total number of AKs on untreated skin was 43, compared with just 8 AKs on PDT-treated skin.
I personally feel that since transplant recipients are so susceptible to skin cancer, undergoing PDT twice a year is a great way to prevent precancers. The PDT regimen would consist of a application of 20% photosensitizer, followed by 30 minutes of sun exposure or application of a conventional LED light. Even if you aren’t currently experiencing any issues, it’s highly recommended as a great preventative measure.