[Note: Many of the medical and scientific terms used in this summary are found in the NCI Dictionary of Genetics Terms. When a linked term is clicked, the definition will appear in a separate window.]

[Note: Many of the genes described in this summary are found in the Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) database. When OMIM appears after a gene name or the name of a condition, click on OMIM for a link to more information.]

The genetics of skin cancer is an extremely broad topic. There are more than 100 types of tumors that are clinically apparent on the skin; many of these are known to have familial components, either in isolation or as part of a syndrome with other features. This is, in part, because the skin itself is a complex organ made up of multiple cell types. Furthermore, many of these cell types can undergo malignant transformation at various points in their differentiation, leading to tumors with distinct histology and dramatically different biological behaviors, such as squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell cancer (BCC). These have been called nonmelanoma skin cancers or keratinocytic cancers.

Figure 1 is a simple diagram of normal skin structure. It also indicates the major cell types that are normally found in each compartment. Broadly speaking, there are two large compartmentsthe avascular cellular epidermis and the vascular dermiswith many cell types distributed in a largely acellular matrix.[1]

Figure 1. Schematic representation of normal skin. The relatively avascular epidermis houses basal cell keratinocytes and squamous epithelial keratinocytes, the source cells for BCC and SCC, respectively. Melanocytes are also present in normal skin and serve as the source cell for melanoma. The separation between epidermis and dermis occurs at the basement membrane zone, located just inferior to the basal cell keratinocytes.

The outer layer or epidermis is made primarily of keratinocytes but has several other minor cell populations. The bottom layer is formed of basal keratinocytes abutting the basement membrane. The basement membrane is formed from products of keratinocytes and dermal fibroblasts, such as collagen and laminin, and is an important anatomical and functional structure. As the basal keratinocytes divide and differentiate, they lose contact with the basement membrane and form the spinous cell layer, the granular cell layer, and the keratinized outer layer or stratum corneum.

The true cytologic origin of BCC remains in question. BCC and basal cell keratinocytes share many histologic similarities, as is reflected in the name. Alternatively, the outer root sheath cells of the hair follicle have also been proposed as the cell of origin for BCC.[2] This is suggested by the fact that BCCs occur predominantly on hair-bearing skin. BCCs rarely metastasize but can invade tissue locally or regionally, sometimes following along nerves. A tendency for superficial necrosis has resulted in the name rodent ulcer.[3]

Some debate remains about the origin of SCC; however, these cancers are likely derived from epidermal stem cells associated with the hair follicle.[4] A variety of tissues, such as lung and uterine cervix, can give rise to SCC, and this cancer has somewhat differing behavior depending on its source. Even in cancer derived from the skin, SCC from different anatomic locations can have moderately differing aggressiveness; for example, SCC from glabrous (smooth, hairless) skin has a lower metastatic rate than SCC arising from the vermillion border of the lip or from scars.[3]

Additionally, in the epidermal compartment, melanocytes distribute singly along the basement membrane and can transform into melanoma. Melanocytes are derived from neural crest cells and migrate to the epidermal compartment near the eighth week of gestational age. Langerhans cells, or dendritic cells, are a third cell type in the epidermis and have a primary function of antigen presentation. These cells reside in the skin for an extended time and respond to different stimuli, such as ultraviolet radiation or topical steroids, which cause them to migrate out of the skin.[5]

The dermis is largely composed of an extracellular matrix. Prominent cell types in this compartment are fibroblasts, endothelial cells, and transient immune system cells. When transformed, fibroblasts form fibrosarcomas and endothelial cells form angiosarcomas, Kaposi sarcoma, and other vascular tumors. There are a number of immune cell types that move in and out of the skin to blood vessels and lymphatics; these include mast cells, lymphocytes, mononuclear cells, histiocytes, and granulocytes. These cells can increase in number in inflammatory diseases and can form tumors within the skin. For example, urticaria pigmentosa is a condition that arises from mast cells and is occasionally associated with mast cell leukemia; cutaneous T-cell lymphoma is often confined to the skin throughout its course. Overall, 10% of leukemias and lymphomas have prominent expression in the skin.[6]

Epidermal appendages are also found in the dermal compartment. These are derivatives of the epidermal keratinocytes, such as hair follicles, sweat glands, and the sebaceous glands associated with the hair follicles. These structures are generally formed in the first and second trimesters of fetal development. These can form a large variety of benign or malignant tumors with diverse biological behaviors. Several of these tumors are associated with familial syndromes. Overall, there are dozens of different histological subtypes of these tumors associated with individual components of the adnexal structures.[7]

Finally, the subcutis is a layer that extends below the dermis with varying depth, depending on the anatomic location. This deeper boundary can include muscle, fascia, bone, or cartilage. The subcutis can be affected by inflammatory conditions such as panniculitis and malignancies such as liposarcoma.[8]

These compartments give rise to their own malignancies but are also the region of immediate adjacent spread of localized skin cancers from other compartments. The boundaries of each skin compartment are used to define the staging of skin cancers. For example, an in situ melanoma is confined to the epidermis. Once the cancer crosses the basement membrane into the dermis, it is invasive. Internal malignancies also commonly metastasize to the skin. The dermis and subcutis are the most common locations, but the epidermis can also be involved in conditions such as Pagetoid breast cancer.

The skin has a wide variety of functions. First, the skin is an important barrier preventing extensive water and temperature loss and providing protection against minor abrasions. These functions can be aberrantly regulated in cancer. For example, in the erythroderma associated with advanced cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, alterations in the regulations of body temperature can result in profound heat loss. Second, the skin has important adaptive and innate immunity functions. In adaptive immunity, antigen-presenting cells engender a TH1, TH2, and TH17 response.[9] In innate immunity, the immune system produces numerous peptides with antibacterial and antifungal capacity. Consequently, even small breaks in the skin can lead to infection. The skin-associated lymphoid tissue is one of the largest arms of the immune system. It may also be important in immune surveillance against cancer. Immunosuppression, which occurs during organ transplant, is a significant risk factor for skin cancer. The skin is significant for communication through facial expression and hand movements. Unfortunately, areas of specialized function, such as the area around the eyes and ears, are common places for cancer to occur. Even small cancers in these areas can lead to reconstructive challenges and have significant cosmetic and social ramifications.[1]

While the appearance of any one skin cancer can vary, there are general physical presentations that can be used in screening. BCCs most commonly have a pearly rim (see Figure 3) or can appear somewhat eczematous. They often ulcerate (see Figure 3). SCCs frequently have a thick keratin top layer (see Figure 4). Both BCCs and SCCs are associated with a history of sun-damaged skin. Melanomas are characterized by asymmetry, border irregularity, color variation, a diameter of more than 6 mm, and evolution (ABCDE criteria). (Refer to What Does Melanoma Look Like? on NCIs website for more information about the ABCDE criteria.) Photographs representing typical clinical presentations of these cancers are shown below.


Figure 2. Superficial basal cell carcinoma (left panel) and nodular basal cell carcinoma (right panel).


Figure 3. Ulcerated basal cell carcinoma (left panel) and ulcerated basal cell carcinoma with characteristic pearly rim (right panel).


Figure 4. Squamous cell carcinoma on the face with thick keratin top layer (left panel) and squamous cell carcinoma on the leg (right panel).


Figure 5. Melanomas with characteristic asymmetry, border irregularity, color variation, and large diameter.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common malignancy in people of European descent, with an associated lifetime risk of 30%.[1] While exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the risk factor most closely linked to the development of BCC, other environmental factors (such as ionizing radiation, chronic arsenic ingestion, and immunosuppression) and genetic factors (such as family history, skin type, and genetic syndromes) also potentially contribute to carcinogenesis. In contrast to melanoma, metastatic spread of BCC is very rare and typically arises from large tumors that have evaded medical treatment for extended periods of time. BCCs can invade tissue locally or regionally, sometimes following along nerves. A tendency for superficial necrosis has resulted in the name rodent ulcer. With early detection, the prognosis for BCC is excellent.

Sun exposure is the major known environmental factor associated with the development of skin cancer of all types. There are different patterns of sun exposure associated with each major type of skin cancer (BCC, squamous cell carcinoma [SCC], and melanoma).

While there is no standard measure, sun exposure can be generally classified as intermittent or chronic, and the effects may be considered acute or cumulative. Intermittent sun exposure is obtained sporadically, usually during recreational activities, and particularly by indoor workers who have only weekends or vacations to be outdoors and whose skin has not adapted to the sun. Chronic sun exposure is incurred by consistent, repetitive sun exposure, during outdoor work or recreation. Acute sun exposure is obtained over a short time period on skin that has not adapted to the sun. Depending on the time of day and a persons skin type, acute sun exposure may result in sunburn. In epidemiology studies, sunburn is usually defined as burn with pain and/or blistering that lasts for 2 or more days. Cumulative sun exposure is the additive amount of sun exposure that one receives over a lifetime. Cumulative sun exposure may reflect the additive effects of intermittent sun exposure, chronic sun exposure, or both.

Specific patterns of sun exposure appear to lead to different types of skin cancer among susceptible individuals. Intense intermittent recreational sun exposure has been associated with melanoma and BCC,[2,3] while chronic occupational sun exposure has been associated with SCC. Given these data, dermatologists routinely counsel patients to protect their skin from the sun by avoiding mid-day sun exposure, seeking shade, and wearing sun-protective clothing, although evidence-based data for these practices are lacking. The data regarding skin cancer risk reduction by regular sunscreen use are variable. One randomized trial of sunscreen efficacy demonstrated statistically significant protection for the development of SCC but no protection for BCC,[4] while another randomized study demonstrated a trend for reduction in multiple occurrences of BCC among sunscreen users [5] but no significant reduction in BCC or SCC incidence.[6]

Level of evidence (sun-protective clothing, avoidance of sun exposure): 4aii

Level of evidence (sunscreen): 1aii

Tanning bed use has also been associated with an increased risk of BCC. A study of 376 individuals with BCC and 390 control subjects found a 69% increased risk of BCC in individuals who had ever used indoor tanning.[7] The risk of BCC was more pronounced in females and individuals with higher use of indoor tanning.[8]

Environmental factors other than sun exposure may also contribute to the formation of BCC and SCC. Petroleum byproducts (e.g., asphalt, tar, soot, paraffin, and pitch), organophosphate compounds, and arsenic are all occupational exposures associated with cutaneous nonmelanoma cancers.[9-11]

Arsenic exposure may occur through contact with contaminated food, water, or air. While arsenic is ubiquitous in the environment, its ambient concentration in both food and water may be increased near smelting, mining, or coal-burning establishments. Arsenic levels in the U.S. municipal water supply are tightly regulated; however, control is lacking for potable water obtained through private wells. As it percolates through rock formations with naturally occurring arsenic, well water may acquire hazardous concentrations of this material. In many parts of the world, wells providing drinking water are contaminated by high levels of arsenic in the ground water. The populations in Bangladesh, Taiwan, and many other locations have high levels of skin cancer associated with elevated levels of arsenic in the drinking water.[12-16] Medicinal arsenical solutions (e.g., Fowlers solution and Bells asthma medication) were once used to treat common chronic conditions such as psoriasis, syphilis, and asthma, resulting in associated late-onset cutaneous malignancies.[17,18] Current potential iatrogenic sources of arsenic exposure include poorly regulated Chinese traditional/herbal medications and intravenous arsenic trioxide utilized to induce remission in acute promyelocytic leukemia.[19,20]

Aerosolized particulate matter produced by combustion of arsenic-containing materials is another source of environmental exposure. Arsenic-rich coal, animal dung from arsenic-rich regions, and chromated copper arsenatetreated wood produce airborne arsenical particles when burned.[21-23] Burning of these products in enclosed unventilated settings (such as for heat generation) is particularly hazardous.[24]

Clinically, arsenic-induced skin cancers are characterized by multiple recurring SCCs and BCCs occurring in areas of the skin that are usually protected from the sun. A range of cutaneous findings are associated with chronic or severe arsenic exposure, including pigmentary variation (poikiloderma of the skin) and Bowen disease (SCC in situ).[25]

However, the effect of arsenic on skin cancer risk may be more complex than previously thought. Evidence from in vivo models indicate that arsenic, alone or in combination with itraconazole, can inhibit the hedgehog pathway in cells with wild-type or mutated Smoothened by binding to GLI2 proteins; in this way, these drugs demonstrated inhibition of BCC growth in these animal models.[26,27] Additionally, the effect of arsenic on skin cancer risk may be modified by certain variants in nucleotide excision repair genes (xeroderma pigmentosum [XP] types A and D).[28]

The high-risk phenotype consists of individuals with the following physical characteristics:

Specifically, people with more highly pigmented skin demonstrate lower incidence of BCC than do people with lighter pigmented skin. Individuals with Fitzpatrick skin types I or II were shown to have a twofold increased risk of BCC in a small case-control study.[29] (Refer to the Pigmentary characteristics section in the Melanoma section of this summary for a more detailed discussion of skin phenotypes based upon pigmentation.) Blond or red hair color was associated with increased risk of BCC in two large cohorts: the Nurses Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.[30]

Immunosuppression also contributes to the formation of nonmelanoma (keratinocyte) skin cancers. Among solid-organ transplant recipients, the risk of SCC is 65 to 250 times higher, and the risk of BCC is 10 times higher than in the general population.[31-33] Nonmelanoma skin cancers in high-risk patients (i.e., solid-organ transplant recipients and chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients) occur at a younger age and are more common, more aggressive, and have a higher risk of recurrence and metastatic spread than nonmelanoma skin cancers in the general population.[34,35] Among patients with an intact immune system, BCCs outnumber SCCs by a 4:1 ratio; in transplant patients, SCCs outnumber BCCs by a 2:1 ratio.

This increased risk has been linked to the level of immunosuppression and UV exposure. As the duration and dosage of immunosuppressive agents increases, so does the risk of cutaneous malignancy; this effect is reversed with decreasing the dosage of, or taking a break from, immunosuppressive agents. Heart transplant recipients, requiring the highest rates of immunosuppression, are at much higher risk of cutaneous malignancy than liver transplant recipients, in whom much lower levels of immunosuppression are needed to avoid rejection.[31,36] The risk appears to be highest in geographic areas of high UV radiation exposure: when comparing Australian and Dutch organ transplant populations, the Australian patients carried a fourfold increased risk of developing SCC and a fivefold increased risk of developing BCC.[37] This speaks to the importance of rigorous sun avoidance among high-risk immunosuppressed individuals.

Individuals with BCCs and/or SCCs report a higher frequency of these cancers in their family members than do controls. The importance of this finding is unclear. Apart from defined genetic disorders with an increased risk of BCC, a positive family history of any skin cancer is a strong predictor of the development of BCC.

A personal history of BCC or SCC is strongly associated with subsequent BCC or SCC. There is an approximate 20% increased risk of a subsequent lesion within the first year after a skin cancer has been diagnosed. The mean age of occurrence for these nonmelanoma skin cancers is the mid-60s.[38-43] In addition, several studies have found that individuals with a history of skin cancer have an increased risk of a subsequent diagnosis of a noncutaneous cancer;[44-47] however, other studies have contradicted this finding.[48-51] In the absence of other risk factors or evidence of a defined cancer susceptibility syndrome, as discussed below, skin cancer patients are encouraged to follow screening recommendations for the general population for sites other than the skin.

Mutations in the gene coding for the transmembrane receptor protein PTCH1, or PTCH, are associated with basal cell nevus syndrome (BCNS) and sporadic cutaneous BCCs. PTCH1, the human homolog of the Drosophila segment polarity gene patched (ptc), is an integral component of the hedgehog signaling pathway, which serves many developmental (appendage development, embryonic segmentation, neural tube differentiation) and regulatory (maintenance of stem cells) roles.

In the resting state, the transmembrane receptor protein PTCH1 acts catalytically to suppress the seven-transmembrane protein Smoothened (Smo), preventing further downstream signal transduction.[52] Stoichiometric binding of the hedgehog ligand to PTCH1 releases inhibition of Smo, with resultant activation of transcription factors (GLI1, GLI2), cell proliferation genes (cyclin D, cyclin E, myc), and regulators of angiogenesis.[53,54] Thus, the balance of PTCH1 (inhibition) and Smo (activation) manages the essential regulatory downstream hedgehog signal transduction pathway. Loss-of-function mutations of PTCH1 or gain-of-function mutations of Smo tip this balance toward constitutive activation, a key event in potential neoplastic transformation.

Demonstration of allelic loss on chromosome 9q22 in both sporadic and familial BCCs suggested the potential presence of an associated tumor suppressor gene.[55,56] Further investigation identified a mutation in PTCH1 that localized to the area of allelic loss.[57] Up to 30% of sporadic BCCs demonstrate PTCH1 mutations.[58] In addition to BCC, medulloblastoma and rhabdomyosarcoma, along with other tumors, have been associated with PTCH1 mutations. All three malignancies are associated with BCNS, and most people with clinical features of BCNS demonstrate PTCH1 mutations, predominantly truncation in type.[59]

Truncating mutations in PTCH2, a homolog of PTCH1 mapping to chromosome 1p32.1-32.3, have been demonstrated in both BCC and medulloblastoma.[60,61] PTCH2 displays 57% homology to PTCH1, differing in the conformation of the hydrophilic region between transmembrane portions 6 and 7, and the absence of C-terminal extension.[62] While the exact role of PTCH2 remains unclear, there is evidence to support its involvement in the hedgehog signaling pathway.[60,63]

BCNS, also known as Gorlin Syndrome, Gorlin-Goltz syndrome, and nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome, is an autosomal dominant disorder with an estimated prevalence of 1 in 57,000 individuals.[64] The syndrome is notable for complete penetrance and extremely variable expressivity, as evidenced by evaluation of individuals with identical genotypes but widely varying phenotypes.[59,65] The clinical features of BCNS differ more among families than within families.[66] BCNS is primarily associated with germline mutations in PTCH1, but families with this phenotype have also been associated with alterations in PTCH2 and SUFU.[67-69]

As detailed above, PTCH1 provides both developmental and regulatory guidance; spontaneous or inherited germline mutations of PTCH1 in BCNS may result in a wide spectrum of potentially diagnostic physical findings. The BCNS mutation has been localized to chromosome 9q22.3-q31, with a maximum logarithm of the odd (LOD) score of 3.597 and 6.457 at markers D9S12 and D9S53.[64] The resulting haploinsufficiency of PTCH1 in BCNS has been associated with structural anomalies such as odontogenic keratocysts, with evaluation of the cyst lining revealing heterozygosity for PTCH1.[70] The development of BCC and other BCNS-associated malignancies is thought to arise from the classic two-hit suppressor gene model: baseline heterozygosity secondary to germline PTCH1 mutation as the first hit, with the second hit due to mutagen exposure such as UV or ionizing radiation.[71-75] However, haploinsufficiency or dominant negative isoforms have also been implicated for the inactivation of PTCH1.[76]

The diagnosis of BCNS is typically based upon characteristic clinical and radiologic examination findings. Several sets of clinical diagnostic criteria for BCNS are in use (refer to Table 1 for a comparison of these criteria).[77-80] Although each set of criteria has advantages and disadvantages, none of the sets have a clearly superior balance of sensitivity and specificity for identifying mutation carriers. The BCNS Colloquium Group proposed criteria in 2011 that required 1 major criterion with molecular diagnosis, two major criteria without molecular diagnosis, or one major and two minor criteria without molecular diagnosis.[80] PTCH1 mutations are found in 60% to 85% of patients who meet clinical criteria.[81,82] Most notably, BCNS is associated with the formation of both benign and malignant neoplasms. The strongest benign neoplasm association is with ovarian fibromas, diagnosed in 14% to 24% of females affected by BCNS.[74,78,83] BCNS-associated ovarian fibromas are more likely to be bilateral and calcified than sporadic ovarian fibromas.[84] Ameloblastomas, aggressive tumors of the odontogenic epithelium, have also been proposed as a diagnostic criterion for BCNS, but most groups do not include it at this time.[85]

Other associated benign neoplasms include gastric hamartomatous polyps,[86] congenital pulmonary cysts,[87] cardiac fibromas,[88] meningiomas,[89-91] craniopharyngiomas,[92] fetal rhabdomyomas,[93] leiomyomas,[94] mesenchymomas,[95] and nasal dermoid tumors. Development of meningiomas and ependymomas occurring postradiation therapy has been documented in the general pediatric population; radiation therapy for syndrome-associated intracranial processes may be partially responsible for a subset of these benign tumors in individuals with BCNS.[96-98] Radiation therapy of medulloblastomas may result in many cutaneous BCCs in the radiation ports. Similarly, treatment of BCC of the skin with radiation therapy may result in induction of large numbers of additional BCCs.[73,74,94]

The diagnostic criteria for BCNS are described in Table 1 below.

Of greatest concern with BCNS are associated malignant neoplasms, the most common of which is BCC. BCC in individuals with BCNS may appear during childhood as small acrochordon-like lesions, while larger lesions demonstrate more classic cutaneous features.[99] Nonpigmented BCCs are more common than pigmented lesions.[100] The age at first BCC diagnosis associated with BCNS ranges from 3 to 53 years, with a mean age of 21.4 years; the vast majority of individuals are diagnosed with their first BCC before age 20 years.[78,83] Most BCCs are located on sun-exposed sites, but individuals with greater than 100 BCCs have a more uniform distribution of BCCs over the body.[100] Case series have suggested that up to 1 in 200 individuals with BCC demonstrate findings supportive of a diagnosis of BCNS.[64] BCNS has rarely been reported in individuals with darker skin pigmentation; however, significantly fewer BCCs are found in individuals of African or Mediterranean ancestry.[78,101,102] Despite the rarity of BCC in this population, reported cases document full expression of the noncutaneous manifestations of BCNS.[102] However, in individuals of African ancestry who have received radiation therapy, significant basal cell tumor burden has been reported within the radiation port distribution.[78,94] Thus, cutaneous pigmentation may protect against the mutagenic effects of UV but not ionizing radiation.

Variants associated with an increased risk of BCC in the general population appear to modify the age of BCC onset in individuals with BCNS. A study of 125 individuals with BCNS found that a variant in MC1R (Arg151Cys) was associated with an early median age of onset of 27 years (95% confidence interval [CI], 2034), compared with individuals who did not carry the risk allele and had a median age of BCC of 34 years (95% CI, 3040) (hazard ratio [HR], 1.64; 95% CI, 1.042.58, P = .034). A variant in the TERT-CLPTM1L gene showed a similar effect, with individuals with the risk allele having a median age of BCC of 31 years (95% CI, 2837) relative to a median onset of 41 years (95% CI, 3248) in individuals who did not carry a risk allele (HR, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.081.93, P = .014).[103]

Many other malignancies have been associated with BCNS. Medulloblastoma carries the strongest association with BCNS and is diagnosed in 1% to 5% of BCNS cases. While BCNS-associated medulloblastoma is typically diagnosed between ages 2 and 3 years, sporadic medulloblastoma is usually diagnosed later in childhood, between the ages of 6 and 10 years.[74,78,83,104] A desmoplastic phenotype occurring around age 2 years is very strongly associated with BCNS and carries a more favorable prognosis than sporadic classic medulloblastoma.[105,106] Up to three times more males than females with BCNS are diagnosed with medulloblastoma.[107] As with other malignancies, treatment of medulloblastoma with ionizing radiation has resulted in numerous BCCs within the radiation field.[74,89] Other reported malignancies include ovarian carcinoma,[108] ovarian fibrosarcoma,[109,110] astrocytoma,[111] melanoma,[112] Hodgkin disease,[113,114] rhabdomyosarcoma,[115] and undifferentiated sinonasal carcinoma.[116]

Odontogenic keratocystsor keratocystic odontogenic tumors (KCOTs), as renamed by the World Health Organization working groupare one of the major features of BCNS.[117] Demonstration of clonal loss of heterozygosity (LOH) of common tumor suppressor genes, including PTCH1, supports the transition of terminology to reflect a neoplastic process.[70] Less than one-half of KCOTs from individuals with BCNS show LOH of PTCH1.[76,118] The tumors are lined with a thin squamous epithelium and a thin corrugated layer of parakeratin. Increased mitotic activity in the tumor epithelium and potential budding of the basal layer with formation of daughter cysts within the tumor wall may be responsible for the high rates of recurrence post simple enucleation.[117,119] In a recent case series of 183 consecutively excised KCOTs, 6% of individuals demonstrated an association with BCNS.[117] A study that analyzed the rate of PTCH1 mutations in BCNS-associated KCOTs found that 11 of 17 individuals carried a germline PTCH1 mutation and an additional 3 individuals had somatic mutations in this gene.[120] Individuals with germline PTCH1 mutations had an early age of KCOT presentation. KCOTs occur in 65% to 100% of individuals with BCNS,[78,121] with higher rates of occurrence in young females.[122]

Palmoplantar pits are another major finding in BCC and occur in 70% to 80% of individuals with BCNS.[83] When these pits occur together with early-onset BCC and/or KCOTs, they are considered diagnostic for BCNS.[123]

Several characteristic radiologic findings have been associated with BCNS, including lamellar calcification of falx cerebri;[124,125] fused, splayed or bifid ribs;[126] and flame-shaped lucencies or pseudocystic bone lesions of the phalanges, carpal, tarsal, long bones, pelvis, and calvaria.[82] Imaging for rib abnormalities may be useful in establishing the diagnosis in younger children, who may have not yet fully manifested a diagnostic array on physical examination.

Table 2 summarizes the frequency and median age of onset of nonmalignant findings associated with BCNS.

Individuals with PTCH2 mutations may have a milder phenotype of BCNS than those with PTCH1 mutations. Characteristic features such as palmar/plantar pits, macrocephaly, falx calcification, hypertelorism, and coarse face may be absent in these individuals.[127]

A 9p22.3 microdeletion syndrome that includes the PTCH1 locus has been described in ten children.[128] All patients had facial features typical of BCNS, including a broad forehead, but they had other features variably including craniosynostosis, hydrocephalus, macrosomia, and developmental delay. At the time of the report, none had basal cell skin cancer. On the basis of their hemizygosity of the PTCH1 gene, these patients are presumably at an increased risk of basal cell skin cancer.

Germline mutations in SUFU, a major negative regulator of the hedgehog pathway, have been identified in a small number of individuals with a clinical phenotype resembling that of BCNS.[68,69] These mutations were first identified in individuals with childhood medulloblastoma,[129] and the incidence of medulloblastoma appears to be much higher in individuals with BCNS associated with SUFU mutations than in those with PTCH1 mutations.[68] SUFU mutations may also be associated with an increased predisposition to meningioma.[91,130] Conversely, odontogenic jaw keratocysts appear less frequently in this population. Some clinical laboratories offer genetic testing for SUFU mutations for individuals with BCNS who do not have an identifiable PTCH1 mutation.

Rombo syndrome, a very rare genetic disorder associated with BCC, has been outlined in three case series in the literature.[131-133] The cutaneous examination is within normal limits until age 7 to 10 years, with the development of distinctive cyanotic erythema of the lips, hands, and feet and early atrophoderma vermiculatum of the cheeks, with variable involvement of the elbows and dorsal hands and feet.[131] Development of BCC occurs in the fourth decade.[131] A distinctive grainy texture to the skin, secondary to interspersed small, yellowish, follicular-based papules and follicular atrophy, has been described.[131,133] Missing, irregularly distributed and/or misdirected eyelashes and eyebrows are another associated finding.[131,132]

Bazex-Dupr-Christol syndrome, another rare genodermatosis associated with development of BCC, has more thorough documentation in the literature than Rombo syndrome. Inheritance is accomplished in an X-linked dominant fashion, with no reported male-to-male transmission.[134-136] Regional assignment of the locus of interest to chromosome Xq24-q27 is associated with a maximum LOD score of 5.26 with the DXS1192 locus.[137] Further work has narrowed the potential location to an 11.4-Mb interval on chromosome Xq25-27; however, the causative gene remains unknown.[138]

Characteristic physical findings include hypotrichosis, hypohidrosis, milia, follicular atrophoderma of the cheeks, and multiple BCC, which manifest in the late second decade to early third decade.[134] Documented hair changes with Bazex-Dupr-Christol syndrome include reduced density of scalp and body hair, decreased melanization,[139] a twisted/flattened appearance of the hair shaft on electron microscopy,[140] and increased hair shaft diameter on polarizing light microscopy.[136] The milia, which may be quite distinctive in childhood, have been reported to regress or diminish substantially at puberty.[136] Other reported findings in association with this syndrome include trichoepitheliomas; hidradenitis suppurativa; hypoplastic alae; and a prominent columella, the fleshy terminal portion of the nasal septum.[141,142]

A rare subtype of epidermolysis bullosa simplex (EBS), Dowling-Meara (EBS-DM), is primarily inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion and is associated with mutations in either keratin-5 (KRT5) or keratin-14 (KRT14).[143] EBS-DM is one of the most severe types of EBS and occasionally results in mortality in early childhood.[144] One report cites an incidence of BCC of 44% by age 55 years in this population.[145] Individuals who inherit two EBS mutations may present with a more severe phenotype.[146] Other less phenotypically severe subtypes of EBS can also be caused by mutations in either KRT5 or KRT14.[143] Approximately 75% of individuals with a clinical diagnosis of EBS (regardless of subtype) have KRT5 or KRT14 mutations.[147]

Characteristics of hereditary syndromes associated with a predisposition to BCC are described in Table 3 below.

(Refer to the Brooke-Spiegler Syndrome, Multiple Familial Trichoepithelioma, and Familial Cylindromatosis section in the Rare Skin Cancer Syndromes section of this summary for more information about Brooke-Spiegler syndrome.)

As detailed further below, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force does not recommend regular screening for the early detection of any cutaneous malignancies, including BCC. However, once BCC is detected, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines of care for nonmelanoma skin cancers recommends complete skin examinations every 6 to 12 months for life.[158]

The BCNS Colloquium Group has proposed guidelines for the surveillance of individuals with BCNS (see Table 4).

Level of evidence: 5

Avoidance of excessive cumulative and sporadic sun exposure is important in reducing the risk of BCC, along with other cutaneous malignancies. Scheduling activities outside of the peak hours of UV radiation, utilizing sun-protective clothing and hats, using sunscreen liberally, and strictly avoiding tanning beds are all reasonable steps towards minimizing future risk of skin cancer. For patients with particular genetic susceptibility (such as BCNS), avoidance or minimization of ionizing radiation is essential to reducing future tumor burden.

Level of evidence: 2aii

The role of various systemic retinoids, including isotretinoin and acitretin, has been explored in the chemoprevention and treatment of multiple BCCs, particularly in BCNS patients. In one study of isotretinoin use in 12 patients with multiple BCCs, including 5 patients with BCNS, tumor regression was noted, with decreasing efficacy as the tumor diameter increased.[159] However, the results were insufficient to recommend use of systemic retinoids for treatment of BCC. Three additional patients, including one with BCNS, were followed long-term for evaluation of chemoprevention with isotretinoin, demonstrating significant decrease in the number of tumors per year during treatment.[159] Although the rate of tumor development tends to increase sharply upon discontinuation of systemic retinoid therapy, in some patients the rate remains lower than their pretreatment rate, allowing better management and control of their cutaneous malignancies.[159-161] In summary, the use of systemic retinoids for chemoprevention of BCC is reasonable in high-risk patients, including patients with XP, as discussed in the Squamous Cell Carcinoma section of this summary.

A patients cumulative and evolving tumor load should be evaluated carefully in light of the potential long-term use of a medication class with cumulative and idiosyncratic side effects. Given the possible side-effect profile, systemic retinoid use is best managed by a practitioner with particular expertise and comfort with the medication class. However, for all potentially childbearing women, strict avoidance of pregnancy during the systemic retinoid courseand for 1 month after completion of isotretinoin and 3 years after completion of acitretinis essential to avoid potentially fatal and devastating fetal malformations.

Level of evidence (retinoids): 2aii

In a phase II study of 41 patients with BCNS, vismodegib (an inhibitor of the hedgehog pathway) has been shown to reduce the per-patient annual rate of new BCCs requiring surgery.[162] Existing BCCs also regressed for these patients during daily treatment with 150 mg of oral vismodegib. While patients treated had visible regression of their tumors, biopsy demonstrated residual microscopic malignancies at the site, and tumors progressed after the discontinuation of the therapy. Adverse effects included taste disturbance, muscle cramps, hair loss, and weight loss and led to discontinuation of the medication in 54% of subjects. Based on the side-effect profile and rate of disease recurrence after discontinuation of the medication, additional study regarding optimal dosing of vismodegib is ongoing.

Level of evidence (vismodegib): 1aii

Treatment of individual basal cell cancers in BCNS is generally the same as for sporadic basal cell cancers. Due to the large number of lesions on some patients, this can present a surgical challenge. Field therapy with imiquimod or photodynamic therapy are attractive options, as they can treat multiple tumors simultaneously.[163,164] However, given the radiosensitivity of patients with BCNS, radiation as a therapeutic option for large tumors should be avoided.[78] There are no randomized trials, but the isolated case reports suggest that field therapy has similar results as in sporadic basal cell cancer, with higher success rates for superficial cancers than for nodular cancers.[163,164]

Consensus guidelines for the use of methylaminolevulinate photodynamic therapy in BCNS recommend that this modality may best be used for superficial BCC of all sizes and for nodular BCC less than 2 mm thick.[165] Monthly therapy with photodynamic therapy may be considered for these patients as clinically indicated.

Level of evidence (imiquimod and photodynamic therapy) : 4

In addition to its effects on the prevention of BCCs in patients with BCNS, vismodegib may also have a palliative effect on KCOTs found in this population. An initial report indicated that the use of GDC-0449, the hedgehog pathway inhibitor now known as vismodegib, resulted in resolution of KCOTs in one patient with BCNS.[166] Another small study found that four of six patients who took 150 mg of vismodegib daily had a reduction in the size of KCOTs.[167] None of the six patients in this study had new KCOTs or an increase in the size of existing KCOTs while being treated, and one patient had a sustained response that lasted 9 months after treatment was discontinued.

Level of evidence (vismodegib): 3diii

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer and accounts for approximately 20% of cutaneous malignancies. Although most cancer registries do not include information on the incidence of nonmelanoma skin cancer, annual incidence estimates range from 1 million to 3.5 million cases in the United States.[1,2]

Mortality is rare from this cancer; however, the morbidity and costs associated with its treatment are considerable.

Sun exposure is the major known environmental factor associated with the development of skin cancer of all types; however, different patterns of sun exposure are associated with each major type of skin cancer. (Refer to the Sun exposure section in the Basal Cell Carcinoma section of this summary for more information.) This section focuses on sun exposure and increased risk of cutaneous SCC.

Unlike basal cell carcinoma (BCC), SCC is associated with chronic exposure, rather than intermittent intense exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Occupational exposure is the characteristic pattern of sun exposure linked with SCC.[3] A case-control study in southern Europe showed increased risk of SCC when lifetime sun exposure exceeded 70,000 hours. People whose lifetime sun exposure equaled or exceeded 200,000 hours had an odds ratio (OR) 8 to 9 times that of the reference group.[4] A Canadian case-control study did not find an association between cumulative lifetime sun exposure and SCC; however, sun exposure in the 10 years before diagnosis and occupational exposure were found to be risk factors.[5]

In addition to environmental radiation, exposure to therapeutic radiation is another risk factor for SCC. Individuals with skin disorders treated with psoralen and ultraviolet-A radiation (PUVA) had a threefold to sixfold increase in SCC.[6] This effect appears to be dose-dependent, as only 7% of individuals who underwent fewer than 200 treatments had SCC, compared with more than 50% of those who underwent more than 400 treatments.[7] Therapeutic use of ultraviolet-B (UVB) radiation has also been shown to cause a mild increase in SCC (adjusted incidence rate ratio, 1.37).[8] Devices such as tanning beds also emit UV radiation and have been associated with increased SCC risk, with a reported OR of 2.5 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.73.8).[9]

Investigation into the effect of ionizing radiation on SCC carcinogenesis has yielded conflicting results. One population-based case-control study found that patients who had undergone therapeutic radiation had an increased risk of SCC at the site of previous radiation (OR, 2.94) as compared with individuals who had not undergone radiation treatments.[10] Cohort studies of radiology technicians, atomic-bomb survivors, and survivors of childhood cancers have not shown an increased risk of SCC, although the incidence of BCC was increased in all of these populations.[11-13] For those who develop SCC at previously radiated sites that are not sun-exposed, the latent period appears to be quite long; these cancers may be diagnosed years or even decades after the radiation exposure.[14]

The effect of other types of radiation, such as cosmic radiation, is also controversial. Pilots and flight attendants have a reported incidence of SCC that ranges between 2.1 and 9.9 times what would be expected; however, the overall cancer incidence is not consistently elevated. Some attribute the high rate of nonmelanoma skin cancers in airline flight personnel to cosmic radiation, while others suspect lifestyle factors.[15-20]

The influence of arsenic on the risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer is discussed in detail in the Other environmental factors section in the Basal Cell Carcinoma section of this summary. Like BCCs, SCCs appear to be associated with exposure to arsenic in drinking water and combustion products.[21,22] However, this association may hold true only for the highest levels of arsenic exposure. Individuals who had toenail concentrations of arsenic above the 97th percentile were found to have an approximately twofold increase in SCC risk.[23] For arsenic, the latency period can be lengthy; invasive SCC has been found to develop at an average of 20 years after exposure.[24]

Current or previous cigarette smoking has been associated with a 1.5-fold to 2-fold increase in SCC risk,[25-27] although one large study showed no change in risk.[28] Available evidence suggests that the effect of smoking on cancer risk seems to be greater for SCC than for BCC.

Additional reports have suggested weak associations between SCC and exposure to insecticides, herbicides, or fungicides.[29]

Like melanoma and BCC, SCC occurs more frequently in individuals with lighter skin than in those with darker skin.[3,30] However, SCC can also occur in individuals with darker skin. An Asian registry based in Singapore reported an increase in skin cancer in that geographic area, with an incidence rate of 8.9 per 100,000 person-years. Incidence of SCC, however, was shown to be on the decline.[30] SCC is the most common form of skin cancer in black individuals in the United States and in certain parts of Africa; the mortality rate for this disease is relatively high in these populations.[31,32] Epidemiologic characteristics of, and prevention strategies for, SCC in those individuals with darker skin remain areas of investigation.

Freckling of the skin and reaction of the skin to sun exposure have been identified as other risk factors for SCC.[33] Individuals with heavy freckling on the forearm were found to have a 14-fold increase in SCC risk if freckling was present in adulthood, and an almost threefold risk if freckling was present in childhood.[33,34] The degree of SCC risk corresponded to the amount of freckling. In this study, the inability of the skin to tan and its propensity to burn were also significantly associated with risk of SCC (OR of 2.9 for severe burn and 3.5 for no tan).

The presence of scars on the skin can also increase the risk of SCC, although the process of carcinogenesis in this setting may take years or even decades. SCCs arising in chronic wounds are referred to as Marjolins ulcers. The mean time for development of carcinoma in these wounds is estimated at 26 years.[35] One case report documents the occurrence of cancer in a wound that was incurred 59 years earlier.[36]

Immunosuppression also contributes to the formation of nonmelanoma skin cancers. Among solid-organ transplant recipients, the risk of SCC is 65 to 250 times higher, and the risk of BCC is 10 times higher than that observed in the general population, although the risks vary with transplant type.[37-40] Nonmelanoma skin cancers in high-risk patients (solid-organ transplant recipients and chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients) occur at a younger age, are more common and more aggressive, and have a higher risk of recurrence and metastatic spread than these cancers do in the general population.[41,42] Additionally, there is a high risk of second SCCs.[43,44] In one study, over 65% of kidney transplant recipients developed subsequent SCCs after their first diagnosis.[43] Among patients with an intact immune system, BCCs outnumber SCCs by a 4:1 ratio; in transplant patients, SCCs outnumber BCCs by a 2:1 ratio.

This increased risk has been linked to an interaction between the level of immunosuppression and UV radiation exposure. As the duration and dosage of immunosuppressive agents increase, so does the risk of cutaneous malignancy; this effect is reversed with decreasing the dosage of, or taking a break from, immunosuppressive agents. Heart transplant recipients, requiring the highest rates of immunosuppression, are at much higher risk of cutaneous malignancy than liver transplant recipients, in whom much lower levels of immunosuppression are needed to avoid rejection.[37,45,46] The risk appears to be highest in geographic areas with high UV exposure.[46] When comparing Australian and Dutch organ transplant populations, the Australian patients carried a fourfold increased risk of developing SCC and a fivefold increased risk of developing BCC.[47] This finding underlines the importance of rigorous sun avoidance, particularly among high-risk immunosuppressed individuals.

Certain immunosuppressive agents have been associated with increased risk of SCC. Kidney transplant patients who received cyclosporine in addition to azathioprine and prednisolone had a 2.8-fold increase in risk of SCC over those kidney transplant patients on azathioprine and prednisolone alone.[37] In cardiac transplant patients, increased incidence of SCC was seen in individuals who had received OKT3 (muromonab-CD3), a murine monoclonal antibody against the CD3 receptor.[48]

A personal history of BCC or SCC is strongly associated with subsequent SCC. A study from Ireland showed that individuals with a history of BCC had a 14% higher incidence of subsequent SCC; for men with a history of BCC, the subsequent SCC risk was 27% higher.[49] In the same report, individuals with melanoma were also 2.5 times more likely to report a subsequent SCC. There is an approximate 20% increased risk of a subsequent lesion within the first year after a skin cancer has been diagnosed. The mean age of occurrence for these nonmelanoma skin cancers is the middle of the sixth decade of life.[26,50-54]

Although the literature is scant on this subject, a family history of SCC may increase the risk of SCC in first-degree relatives (FDRs). Review of the Swedish Family Center Database showed that individuals with at least one sibling or parent affected with SCC, in situ SCC (Bowen disease), or actinic keratosis had a twofold to threefold increased risk of invasive and in situ SCC relative to the general population.[55,56] Increased number of tumors in parents was associated with increased risk to the offspring. Of note, diagnosis of the proband at an earlier age was not consistently associated with a trend of increased incidence of SCC in the FDR, as would be expected in most hereditary syndromes because of germline mutations. Further analysis of the Swedish population-based data estimates genetic risk effects of 8% and familial shared-environmental effects of 18%.[57] Thus, shared environmental and behavioral factors likely account for some of the observed familial clustering of SCC.

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