Updated 17 October 2014

Allergy to metal implants linked to aggressive cancer

Chronic skin inflammation caused by continuous skin contact with allergens can lead to tumour development, according to a study.


A rare type of skin cancer has been linked to allergic reactions to metal implants, researchers said.

Chronic skin rashes

Some patients who have metal devices implanted near the skin may develop chronic skin rashes caused by contact allergies to metals such as nickel, cobalt and chromium. These rashes may lead to an unusual and aggressive form of skin cancer, the researchers said.

The study's authors described the case of a woman who had a metal rod implanted to repair a broken ankle, and later developed a skin rash near the site of the implant. Doctors determined that the patient was allergic to nickel in the implant and removed the metal rod.

However, the woman's skin rash persisted. A few years later, a rare form of skin cancer called Marjolin's ulcer developed at the woman's rash site. Doctors removed the cancer.

In experiments with mice, the researchers showed that chronic skin inflammation caused by continuous skin contact with allergens can lead to tumour development, according to the study published online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Causes and symptoms of allergies

Patients who have metal devices implanted near the skin may need to be monitored for this type of inflammation, said the researchers at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

They added that their findings also raise the question of whether patients should be tested for metal allergies before receiving metal implants.

Nickel and poison ivy

"A contact allergy is a different kind of reaction from allergies to pollen, pet dander or food," study senior author Dr. Wayne Yokoyama, a professor of medicine, said in a Washington University news release. "A contact allergy usually develops when an allergen touches the skin or is close to it. Skin rash in response to nickel and poison ivy are two common examples of contact allergies."

In this woman's case, some nickel had likely seeped from the implant into her tissue and was still present in her skin even after the implant was removed, he explained.

Study leader Dr. Shadmehr Demehri said allergen-free versions of some implants are available. "These versions may cost more or be less durable, but for some patients with sensitivity to metals, they may be the best option," Demehri, a dermatologist, said in the news release.

Read more:

iPads can trigger nickel allergies in kids
An allergy-friendly smartphone
10 strange things that may trigger your allergies

Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Allergy expert

Dr Morris is the Principal Allergist at the Cape Town and Johannesburg Allergy Clinics with postgraduate diplomas in Allergology, Dermatology, Paediatrics and Family Medicine dealing with both adult and childhood allergies. obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules