According to researchers at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, people receiving solid organ transplants are at a significantly higher risk of developing one of the most aggressive cancers ever documented, the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma known as Burkitt's lymphoma.
Researchers reviewed the incidence of Burkitt's in 203,557 solid organ recipients listed in the U.S. Transplant Cancer Match Study between 1987 to 2009. They determined that U.S. transplant recipients are 23 times more likely to develop Burkitt's than members of the general population.
When does Burkitt's develop?
Burkitt's tended to peak in these patients between three and eight years following transplant, which differs substantially from the peak incidences of viral malignancies like Kaposi's sarcoma, which peak a year after transplant.
Their findings have been published in the American Journal of Hematology, where they wrote:
"This longer latency suggests that progression to BL occurs after chronic immunosuppression and chronic EBV [Epstein-Barr virus] infection. Alternatively, the lower incidence of BL in the first few years after transplantation may reflect the negative impact of intense immunosuppression on progression to BL during that period."
Who is at risk?
Burkitt's incidence was much higher in younger patients, specifically among those who received the transplant before they reached 18, compared with those who received the transplant after they were 35. It was also higher in patients receiving liver and heart transplants, but lower in those receiving kidney transplants.
Source: American Journal of Hematology