Lower Extremity Lymphedema Linked with Increased Risk for Skin Cancer

December 21, 2023

Patients with the condition have more than twice the risk for developing cancer.

New research suggests that patients with lower extremity lymphedema are at an increased risk for skin cancer. 

Researchers writing in Mayo Clinic Proceedings enrolled more than 4,400 patients with lower extremity lymphedema in the study, and constructed Kaplan-Meier curves for the cohorts to examine the time to development of the first skin cancer for lymphedema compared with controls. Hazard ratios were calculated using a Cox proportional hazards regression model.

The authors reported that the lymphedema group showed a significantly increased risk of skin cancer. In the subgroup with unilateral lymphedema, the extremity with lymphedematous was 2.65-times more likely to develop skin cancer compared to the nonlymphedematous extremity. 

"Lower extremity lymphedema appears to be a risk factor for squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and as expected, angiosarcoma," the researchers wrote. "Clinicians caring for patients with LE lymphedema should be aware of this increased risk and monitor at-risk patients accordingly."

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