Occurrence of other cancers among patients with prior basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer

M R Karagas, E R Greenberg, L A Mott, J A Baron, V L Ernster
Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 1998, 7 (2): 157-61
Epidemiological studies suggest that individuals with basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the skin are more likely to develop other malignancies; however, the factors responsible for this are unknown. To clarify the risk of other cancers following the occurrence of BCC and SCC, we followed participants in a multicenter skin cancer prevention trial for subsequent malignancies. The study group consisted of 1805 BCC and SCC patients who had enrolled in a trial testing the efficacy of oral beta-carotene. Medical confirmation was sought for all cancers (other than BCC or SCC), which were reported by participants or their next-of-kin over a follow-up period of 10 years. We computed the rate ratio (RR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) of time to first new, primary cancer in relation to history of BCC and SCC, using a proportional hazards model. A total of 235 participants had a new primary invasive cancer during 13,887 person-years of follow up. The risk of other cancers was modestly elevated in patients with one or more previous SCCs compared with those who only had a history of BCC (adjusted RR, 1.37; 95% CI, 0.91-2.07). Risk of other cancers also appeared to be increased among those who had multiple prior BCCs relative to those who had only one prior BCC (adjusted RR, 1.21; 95% CI, 0.91-1.61). Further adjustment for smoking history, Quetelet index, radiotherapy, extent of actinic skin damage, treatment assignment, or baseline beta-carotene concentrations did not appreciably alter the results. Cancer of the respiratory system was most strongly related to previous SCC or multiple BCC [RRs (95% CI), 2.20 (1.05-4.62) and 2.34 (1.14-4.83), respectively]. Our data suggest that unidentified exposures or inherited risk factors may play a common etiological role in the pathogenesis of nonmelanoma skin cancer and other cancers, especially respiratory cancers, although larger studies would be necessary to exclude the role of chance in these findings.

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