DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I had a heart transplant about a year ago and have been doing well ever since. On a recent follow-up visit, my transplant doctor recommended a skin checkup with a dermatologist. What connection is there?
ANSWER: It is always a good idea to be evaluated by a dermatologist for an initial skin checkup, regardless of your past medical history. However, some people are more prone to the effects of sun damage and have a higher risk of skin cancer. For example, solid organ transplant recipients have a 100-fold higher risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma compared to someone with no history of transplantation.
A dermatologist’s skin check-up often only takes a few minutes, but it’s a key part of identifying skin cancer early. The most common types of skin cancer are called basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. They usually form in areas of the body exposed to the sun. This is believed to be due to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds that cause damage to the skin’s DNA. These cancers tend to look like pink, red, or scaly spots on the skin that do not go away on their own. They can also bleed and grow in size.
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. It develops in cells called melanocytes that produce melanin, the pigment that gives color to the skin. The exact cause of all melanomas is unclear, but exposure to UV radiation increases the risk of developing melanoma. Genetic factors and skin type may play an important role in the development of melanoma.
While periodic self-assessment makes it more likely that melanoma and other skin cancers will be detected early, it’s always helpful to have an expert on subtle changes that you may not see. This is particularly important for people who have undergone a solid organ transplant and are at higher risk of developing skin. cancer. This increased risk is mainly related to the effects of anti-rejection drugs on the ability of the immune system to prevent the development. skin cancer.
It is recommended that solid organ transplant recipients perform at least annual skin checks with a dermatologist. In the meantime, I recommend that you get used to checking your skin once a month and be diligent in protecting it as much as possible.
When checking your skin for possible problems, consider the ABCDEs for melanoma:
“A” is for asymmetry. Look for polka dots or marks that have an irregular shape or that half looks different from the other.
“B” is for border. Look for polka dots with irregular, jagged or scalloped edges.
“C” is for color. Look for polka dots that have many colors or have an uneven color distribution. You need to check the color variation within a mole.
“D” is for the diameter. If you have a mole more than a quarter of an inch in diameter, have it checked.
“E” is for evolving. If a mole changes size, shape, or color, or if there is bleeding, itching, or tenderness, it is important to evaluate it immediately.
In addition to skin controls, it is important to stay protected from the sun to avoid long-term problems. This is especially critical in transplant recipients.
Some useful tips for sun protection include:
Apply sunscreen daily to sun-exposed areas. If you have a long time outdoors, reapply sunscreen approximately every two hours. A broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor or SPF of 30 is recommended.
Wear sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses when venturing outdoors.
Avoid sun exposure and seek shade between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun is strongest.
Avoid tanning your skin in the sun or tanning beds. Sunless tanning products are safe to use for those people who want to improve their products skin color.
Remember, taking a few more minutes can help you stay healthy.
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Citation: Mayo Clinic Q and A: The Connection Between Skin Care and Transplantation (2021, June 11), retrieved June 11, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-06-mayo -clinic-skin-transplant.html
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