09.1. PTC: Cancer Risks for Intestine, vascular (& Other) Recipients
Why am I at greater risk of developing cancer after intestine/vascular transplant?
All organ transplant recipients are at heightened risk of developing cancer after transplant. This is because although life-sustaining, long-term use of immunosuppressant drugs lowers the body’s ability to fend off certain cancers. When you are taking immunosuppressant drugs, your immune response is lowered, and this is what helps to prevent your body from rejecting your new intestine or vascular transplant. It also means that your body is less able to recognize and destroy cancer cells or infections that can cause cancer.
Additionally, because immunosuppressant drugs reduce your body’s natural monitoring and disease response, you are at increased risk of developing certain viral infections that are linked to increased cancer risk. Examples of these viruses include the Epstein-Barr virus which is associated with lymphoma, Hepatitis which is linked to liver cancer, the Herpes virus which is associated with Kaposi sarcoma, and the Human Papilloma Virus that is associated with skin cancers. There is also a very small chance that cancer was already present in the transplanted organ.
Which cancers am I at greater risk for, and how high is my risk?
For all people, cancer risk increases as a natural part of the aging process. There are also certain lifestyle choices that can raise your risk of cancer, such as not getting regular exercise, smoking, or having a poor diet. In general, there are not very many research studies that have investigated specific cancer risks for intestine and vascular transplant recipients in the years post-transplant. However, all patients who receive any kind of transplant are at risk for skin cancer and Post-transplant Lymphoproliferative Disease (PTLD) because of the immunosuppression medications. The majority of research about intestine transplant has been focused on the risks for children who receive transplants. Be sure to check out the links page to learn more about general risks of skin cancer for a person who receives any kind of transplant. Explore the look pages to learn more about each of these types of cancer and how to manage your risk.