Conference Coverage

Chronic GVHD linked to fivefold increase in squamous cell skin carcinomas


AT SID 2017

– Chronic graft versus host disease (GVHD) was associated with a fivefold increase in risk of squamous cell carcinoma and a nearly twofold rise in the rate of basal cell carcinoma, based on a meta-analysis of eight studies.

Acute GVHD was not tied to an increase in secondary nonmelanoma skin cancers, Pooja H. Rambhia and her associates reported in a poster presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Investigative Dermatology. The findings highlight the need for multidisciplinary consults to distinguish malignancies from the cutaneous manifestations of chronic GVHD and for vigorous surveillance for skin cancer even years after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

GVHS has been linked to secondary nonmelanoma skin cancers in previous studies, but few have quantified the risk, according to the reviewers, who are from the department of dermatology and dermatopathology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. The increased risk may be related to the heavy immunosuppression needed to treat chronic GVHD.

For the meta-analysis, the researchers identified 1,411 studies recorded in academic databases and reviewed those that reported both cases of skin cancers and GVHD. Seven retrospective, and one prospective, studies published between 1997 and 2012 measured both variables in all patients.

The studies included more than 56,000 patients followed for up to 36 years after undergoing allogeneic or syngeneic transplantation, the reviewers reported. During follow-up, between 17% and 73% of patients developed chronic GVHD, and 29% to 67% developed acute GVHD. There were 98 cases of basal cell carcinoma, 49 cases of squamous cell carcinoma, and 34 cases of malignant melanoma. Chronic GVHD was significantly associated with both squamous cell carcinoma (risk ratio, 5.3; 95% confidence interval, 2.4-11.8; P less than .001) and basal cell carcinoma (RR, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.3-3.0; P = .002). In contrast, chronic GVHD showed a nonsignificant trend toward an inverse correlation with the risk of secondary melanoma. Acute GVHD was not linked with squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, or melanoma.

GVHD develops, up to half the time, after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and often becomes chronic, the reviewers noted. Catching skin cancer early is crucial, and transplant patients should undergo regular skin checks with multidisciplinary consults to promptly, accurately distinguish malignancies from the cutaneous manifestations of GVHD, they added.

The researchers did not report external funding sources. They had no relevant financial conflicts of interest.

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