Liver Transplant Patients Have Higher Prevalence of Colon Cancer and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Liver transplant patients over time experience an increasing trend toward colon cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, according to an award-winning study led by a Loyola Medicine gastroenterologist.

The study by Ayokunle Abegunde, MD, MSc, and colleagues also found that lung and heart transplant patients have a higher trend toward non-melanoma skin cancer.

Dr. Abegunde was the senior author of the study, presented during the American College of Gastroenterology annual conference in Philadelphia. The study received a Presidential Poster Award in recognition of high-quality research that is unique and interesting. Fewer than 5 percent of accepted studies receive the award.

The immune-suppressing drugs that organ transplant recipients must take to prevent rejection put them at a higher risk for cancer. A weaker immune system is less able to attack cancer cells and makes a patient more vulnerable to infections from viruses that cause cancer.

Dr. Abegunde and colleagues examined records of 124,399 liver, heart and lung transplant patients in the National Inpatient Sample, the largest inpatient database in the United States. Sixty-seven percent were liver transplant recipients, 22 percent heart transplant recipients and 11 percent lung transplant recipients. The average age was 56, and 62 percent were male. Post-transplant, 7.4 percent of heart transplant patients were diagnosed with cancer, compared with 6.3 percent in both liver and lung transplant patients.

Over time, there was an increasing trend in the prevalence of colon cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma in liver transplant recipients compared with lung and heart transplant recipients. There was an increasing trend in the prevalence of non-melanoma skin cancer among heart and lung transplant recipients compared with liver transplant recipients.

The results suggest that liver transplant patients may benefit from more frequent colonoscopy screenings for colon cancer and heart and lung transplant patients may benefit from more active screening for skin cancer, Dr. Abegunde said.

The study is the first to compare cancer trends among heart, lung and liver transplant patients using the National Inpatient Sample.

The study is titled, “Trends in Cancer Prevalence Among Liver, Heart and Lung Transplant Recipients in the United States, 2005 to 2014.”