News Center
Contact: Terri Clevenger
Karen Halsey
For Immediate Release
New Coalition Created to Improve Education and Awareness Efforts
BOSTON (July 19, 2006) -- In an effort to teach organ transplant recipients about the danger of skin cancer after transplantation, three major professional and advocacy organizations have created an alliance to launch a new education and awareness program to reach as many of these recipients as possible. The AT-RISC (After Transplantation-Reduce Incidence of Skin Cancer) Alliance is a unique, cross-disciplinary collaboration between the International Skin Cancer Collaborative (ITSCC), the International Transplant Nurses Society (ITNS) and the Transplant Recipients International Organization (TRIO). The AT-RISC initiative is being launched nationally during the World Transplant Congress held here in Boston, July 22-27.
"The number of successful organ transplantations has more than doubled since 1990," states Thomas Stasko, MD, associate professor of medicine in dermatology at the Vanderbilt University of Medicine in Nashville, president-elect of ITSCC and a core member of the AT-RISC Alliance. "As a result, dermatologists and dermatologic surgeons are seeing many more transplant patients coming through their doors with advanced skin cancers. Our goal is to make these patients aware that they are at a higher risk for skin cancer before it gets to this point. We want to make sure they know how to protect against these skin cancers."
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in organ transplant recipients. Organ transplant recipients are 65 times more likely to get squamous cell carcinoma, 10 times more likely to contract basal cell carcinoma and four times more likely to develop melanoma than the general population. All of these cancers will occur at much younger ages (20-40 years) and could ultimately lead to premature death in this group of patients. These skin cancers usually appear five to seven years out from the transplant and are linked to the immunosuppressive medications that are necessary to combat organ rejection. While most transplant recipients will develop a small number of skin cancers, severely affected patients may develop as many as 100 per year. This can lead to numerous surgeries and eventually deformity and a decreased quality of life.
"There is so much to take in when you are preparing for, and then caring for your transplant, that it is easy to forget many of the important details that are discussed with you," says Elizabeth Rubin, past-president of TRIO. In fact, according to AT-RISC, only 54 percent of transplant recipients remember receiving skin cancer education either before or after their transplant.
With proper sun protection, which includes daily application of sunscreen, sun-protective clothing and avoiding the sun during the times when the UVA and UVB rays are the strongest (10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.), transplant recipients can begin to protect themselves against skin cancer. In addition, the AT-RISC Alliance advises that transplant recipients should examine their skin regularly and see a dermatologist for a full examination at least once a year.
The AT-RISC Initiative
The AT-RISC initiative provides useful information for both the transplant professional and transplant recipient through the AT-RISC toolbox, which contains a helpful brochure for the patient, a poster for the medical professional's waiting room, a fact sheet that transplant nurses can give to their patients and a CD for the transplant physician, which provides access to a bibliography of all of the literature available on skin cancer post-transplantation, as well as educational talks for the medical professional. All materials are free of charge and available on its website, www.AT-RISC.org.
Here at the World Transplant Congress, AT-RISC will be holding two "Train the Trainer" medical education workshop sessions on July 24th and 25th for transplant nurses and coordinators to help them understand the risks, signs and diagnoses of skin cancer in their transplant patients.
"We want to ensure that our nurses and coordinators are armed with the most up-to-date research and clinical information available in order to provide their patients with the best care possible," states Beth Kassalen, executive director of ITNS. "We are excited to be part of the AT-RISC initiative as our members are dealing with these patients daily and can truly be a key influence in helping them become successful in caring for their transplant and its various effects."
The AT-RISC initiative is funded through an unrestricted educational grant from Connetics, Inc.
About the AT-RISC Alliance
The AT-RISC Alliance is a unique collaborative effort between the International Transplant Skin Cancer Collaborative, the Transplant Nurses Society and the Transplant Recipients International Organization. The Alliance is dedicated to reducing the incidence and severity of skin cancer in organ transplant recipients through education and awareness efforts.
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Transplant Skin Cancer Fact Sheet