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Burn patients not necessarily at higher risk of skin cancer

Copenhagen, Denmark — A new study suggests that people who suffer burn injuries are not at heightened risk of developing skin cancers.

Reuters Health reports that Lene Mellemkjaer, M.D., of the Danish Cancer Society, and colleagues identified 16,903 patients who had been admitted to a hospital with a thermal or chemical burn between 1978 to 1993. The subjects were followed for cancer for an average of just more than 15-and-a-half years.

Patients with burn injuries had a total of 139 skin cancers, with 189 expected.

The reduced risk of skin cancer was mainly the result of reduced risk of a nonmelanoma type of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, as well as a reduced risk of malignant melanoma, the study said.

The relative risk of another type of nonmelanoma skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, was close to expected.
There were no consistent increases in risk for skin cancer in subgroups of patients with the most severe burns or with the longest periods of follow-up.

In an interview with Reuters Health, Dr. Mellemkjaer said that the reason for the reduced risk may be less exposure to the sun after the burn injury, perhaps because sun exposure is uncomfortable for these patients.

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