Organ Transplants May Increase Cancer Risk

Megan Ray  |  November 15, 2011

A recent study found that organ transplant recipients in the United States are twice as likely to develop cancer than the general population, USA Today reports.

The risk is elevated for 32 different types of cancer, but experts reinforce the fact that the transplant still holds far more benefits than risks in most cases.

"People need to understand that transplantation is one of the great success stories of medicine. It's a very effective treatment for people with severe organ disease," lead author Dr. Eric Engels reports in the study.

Despite these successes, the study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that the immune system-suppressing medications, which are often administered to transplant patients after surgery, may increase the person's risk of cancer.

In addition, these immunosuppressants, which work to allow the body to accept the new organ, limit its ability to fight off viruses that often cause certain cancers like Hodgkin's lymphoma or liver cancer, making the individual more susceptible to the cancer, according to ABC News.

"It's hard to sort out the exact cause of cancer, but some are clearly related to being immunosuppressed," Dr. Darla Granger, director of the pancreatic transplantation program at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit, told the news source. 

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