Non-melanoma skin cancer linked with increased risk for other cancers

In collaboration with the Press Association

People who have previously had non-melanoma skin cancer appear to face a higher risk of other cancers, US scientists have found.

Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina analysed data on 769 people with non-melanoma skin cancer - basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma - and a further 18,405 people with no previous history of cancer for 16 years.

They found that the rate of cancer in people with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer was 293.5 cases per 10,000 people per year, while in people with no previous history of cancer it was just 77.8 cases per 10,000 people per year.

After other risk factors - such as age, sex, body mass index, smoking and education level - had been taken into account, people with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer were found to face a two-fold increase in the risk of subsequent cancers.

Previous research has suggested that non-melanoma skin cancer survivors are at increased risk of developing melanoma in the future, but the researchers found that the disease also increases the risk of other forms of cancer.

The association was strongest in young people between the ages of 25 and 44.

Commenting on the findings, which are published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Dr Anthony Alberg of the Medical University of South Carolina said: "This pattern of associations, with earlier age of [non-melanoma skin cancer] diagnosis being linked more strongly to the risk of developing subsequent malignancies, is consistent with the pattern that one would expect for a marker of inherited predisposition to cancer."

Dr Alison Ross, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "This interesting study adds weight to the possibility that non-melanoma skin cancer may somehow increase a person's future risk of developing other types of cancer.

"The next steps will be for scientists to investigate the biology behind this link, so they can piece together what's really happening in the body and how."