For the study, the researchers analyzed the DNA of 61 patients with frequent basal cell carcinomas, and found 20 percent had mutations in genes that help repair DNA damage in body cells. Cancer arises when such abnormal cells grow and spread unchecked.
“That 20 percent figure is much higher than you’d see in the general population,” Sarin said.
She cautioned, though, that the finding is based on a small group of patients, and further research is necessary.
Dr. Vernon Sondak, who heads the skin cancer department at Moffitt Cancer Center, in Tampa, Fla., called the findings important, though not surprising.
It has long been thought that the skin can serve as a “tip off” that a person is relatively more vulnerable to DNA damage from various exposures.
“This suggests that the same underlying biology that makes some people especially vulnerable to DNA damage from UV radiation may also make them more susceptible to other cancers,” said Sondak, who was not involved in the study.
People who have a history of frequent BCCs should be sure to get the recommended screenings for other cancers, like breast and colon cancers, Sondak said.