Researchers have found a connection between multiple basal cell carcinoma (BCC) cancers and a higher risk for developing unrelated cancers later in life. Basal cell cancer is considered the least aggressive of the different types of skin cancers because it’s slow-growing and highly treatable when caught early.

It has long been thought that the skin can serve as an indicator of a person’s relative vulnerability to DNA damage, not only from the sun’s UV radiation but from a variety of exposures. The suggestion is that the same underlying biology that makes some people more vulnerable to DNA damage from UV radiation makes them more susceptible to other cancers.

The study, which was published in the journal JCI Insight, analyzed the DNA of 61 patients with multiple basal cell carcinomas. More than one-third of these patients had a history of other cancers as well. Among those with at least six diagnoses of BCC, the risks of blood, breast, colon and prostate cancers were roughly three- to six-times higher than the norm for Americans of the same age and race, the study authors reported.

The scientists continued to study data from a medical insurance claims database containing information on more than 250 million U.S. patients. The hypothesis held up.

“We found that about 20 percent of the people with frequent basal cell carcinomas have a mutation in one of the genes responsible for repairing DNA damage, versus about 3 percent of the general population,” said Stanford’s Kavita Sarin, MD, PhD, who characterized the findings as “shockingly high.”

Dr. Monique S. Cohn at Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center suggests early detection, genetic counseling and sunscreen. “If you’re diagnosed with skin cancer, be aware of your family history,” she says. “Early detection makes all the difference. The key is catching and treating it early, which is true of every cancer. Get a yearly skin check. All it takes is one major sunburn in your life, and your cancer risk increases considerably. Always wear sunblock, and protective clothing which can reduce your skin cancer risk.”

If you have a mole or other skin lesion that is causing you concern, schedule an appointment online at Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center or by calling 330-425-7600.