Published online Apr 28, 2016. doi: 10.4254/wjh.v8.i12.533
Peer-review started: January 10, 2016
First decision: February 22, 2016
Revised: March 8, 2016
Accepted: April 5, 2016
Article in press: April 6, 2016
Published online: April 28, 2016
Liver transplantation (LT) is associated with a 2 to 7 fold higher, age and gender adjusted, risk of de novo malignancy. The overall incidence of de novo malignancy post LT ranges from 2.2% to 26%, and 5 and 10 years incidence rates are estimated at 10% to 14.6% and 20% to 32%, respectively. The main risk factors for de novo malignancy include immunosuppression with impaired immunosurveillance, and a number of patient factors which include; age, latent oncogenic viral infections, tobacco and alcohol use history, and underlying liver disease. The most common cancers after LT are non-melanoma skin cancers, accounting for approximately 37% of de novo malignancies, with a noted increase in the ratio of squamous to basal cell cancers. While these types of skin cancer do not impact patient survival, post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorders and solid organ cancer, accounting for 25% and 48% of malignancies, are associated with increased mortality. Patients developing these types of cancer are diagnosed at more advanced stages, and their cancers behave more aggressively compared with the general population. Patients undergoing LT for primary sclerosing cholangitis (particularly with inflammatory bowel disease) and alcoholic liver disease have high rates of malignancies compared with patients undergoing LT for other indications. These populations are at particular risk for gastrointestinal and aerodigestive cancers respectively. Counseling smoking cessation, skin protection from sun exposure and routine clinical follow-up are the current approach in practice. There are no standardized surveillance protocol, but available data suggests that regimented surveillance strategies are needed and capable of yielding cancer diagnosis at earlier stages with better resulting survival. Evidence-based strategies are needed to guide optimal surveillance and safe minimization of immunosuppression.
Core tip: The risk of new cancers is significantly increased after liver transplantation (LT), and is driven by patient factors, oncogenic viruses and lifelong immunosuppression. De novo malignancy is a major risk factor for mortality after LT, equaling the risk of cardiovascular disease or infectious diseases. The risk of de novo malignancies may be reduced by attention to patient risk factors and minimization of immunosuppression when possible. Ultimately rigorous surveillance is needed to allow for early diagnosis and attenuation of mortality risk.