Basal cell nevus syndrome
Basal cell nevus syndrome is a group of defects, passed down through families, that involve the skin, nervous system, eyes, endocrine glands, and bones.
The condition causes an unusual facial appearance and a higher risk of skin cancers.
Nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome; Gorlin syndrome
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Basal cell nevus syndrome is a rare genetic condition. The gene linked to the syndrome is passed down through families as an autosomal dominant trait. That means you will get the syndrome if either parent passes the gene down to you.
The hallmark of this disorder is the appearance of a type of skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma at or around puberty.
- Broad nose
- Heavy, protruding brow
- Jaw that sticks out (in some cases)
- Wide-set eyes
The condition may affect the nervous system and lead to:
The condition also leads to bone defects, including:
Signs and tests
The person may have a family history of basal cell nevus syndrome and several basal cell skin cancers in the past.
Tests may reveal:
- Brain tumors
- Cysts in the jaw, which can lead to abnormal tooth development or jaw fractures
- Defects in the colored part (iris) or lens of the eye
- Head swelling due to fluid on the brain (hydrocephalus)
- Rib abnormalities
Tests that may be done include:
- Genetic testing (in some patients)
- Skin biopsy of tumors
Very frequent examinations by a dermatologist are critical, so that skin cancers may be treated while they are still small.
Persons with this condition may also be seen and treated by several other specialists, depending on what part of the body is affected. For example, a cancer specialist (oncologist) may treat internal tumors, and an orthopedic surgeon may help treat bone problems.
Frequent follow-up with a variety of doctors is vital to achieving a good outcome.
- Brain tumor
- Ovarian tumors
- Skin damage and severe scarring due to skin cancers
- Spontaneous fractures
Calling your health care provider
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if:
- You or any family members have basal cell nevus syndrome, especially if you are planning to have a child.
- You have a child who has symptoms of this condition.
Couples with a family history of this syndrome might consider genetic counseling before becoming pregnant.
Avoiding the sun and using sunscreen are necessary to help prevent new basal cell skin cancers.
Avoid ionizing radiation such as x-rays. People with this condition are very sensitive to radiation, and exposure can lead to skin cancers.
Morelli JG. Tumors of the skin. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 669.
Michael Lehrer, MD, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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