What is basal cell nevus syndrome?
Basal cell nevus syndrome refers to a group of defects caused by a rare genetic condition. It affects the skin, endocrine system, nervous system, eyes, and bones
Other names for basal cell nevus syndrome include:
- Gorlin syndrome
- Gorlin-Goltz syndrome
- Nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome (NBCCS)
The telltale sign of this disorder is the appearance of basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) after you enter puberty. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer in the United States. Most frequently found in people over age 45, it usually occurs as a result of prolonged exposure to sunlight. People with basal cell nevus syndrome have a high risk of developing basal cell carcinoma..
How common is basal cell nevus syndrome?
Basal cell nevus syndrome is rare, occurring in an estimated 1 in 60,000 people. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of basal cell nevus syndrome?
The most common symptom of basal cell nevus syndrome is the development of basal cell carcinoma in adolescence or young adulthood. Basal cell nevus syndrome is also responsible for the development of other cancers early in a person’s life, including:
- Medulloblastoma (a malignant brain tumor, usually in children)
- Breast cancer
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL)
- Ovarian cancer
People who have basal cell nevus syndrome often have unique physical features as well. Examples include:
- Pitting in the palms of the hands or on the feet
- Large head size
- Cleft palate
- Eyes that are spaced far apart
- A protruding jaw
- Spinal problems, including scoliosis or kyphosis (abnormal curvatures of spine)
Some people with basal cell nevus syndrome will also develop tumors in their jaw. These tumors are known as keratocystic odontogenic tumors and can cause the person’s face to swell. In some instances, the tumors will displace their teeth.
If the condition is severe, additional symptoms may result. For example, basal cell nevus syndrome can affect the nervous system. This can cause:
- Intellectual disability
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes basal cell nevus syndrome?
Basal cell nevus syndrome is passed down in families through an autosomal dominant pattern. This means that you only need to get the gene from one of your parents to develop the disorder. If one parent has the gene, you have a 50-percent chance of inheriting it and developing the condition.
The specific gene involved in the development of basal cell nevus syndrome is the PTCH1, or patched, gene. This gene is responsible for making sure that normal cells in the body don’t multiply too rapidly. When problems with this gene arise, the body is not able to stop cell division and growth. As a result, your body is not able to prevent the growth of certain types of cancer.
What increases my risk for basal cell nevus syndrome?
There are many risk factors for basal cell nevus syndrome, such as:
- Sun exposure
- Radiation therapy
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is basal cell nevus syndrome diagnosed?
Your doctor can diagnose basal cell nevus syndrome. They will ask you about your health history, including if you have been diagnosed with cancer, and if there is a history of the disease in your family. Your doctor will also perform a physical exam to see if you have any of the following:
- Keratocystic odontogenic tumors
- Fluid on the brain that leads to head swelling (hydrocephalus)
- Abnormalities in the ribs or spine
To confirm your diagnosis, your doctor may also order additional tests. These may include:
- An echocardiogram
- MRI of the head
- Biopsy (if you have tumors)
- X-ray of the head and jaw
- Genetic testing
How is basal cell nevus syndrome treated?
Treatment of basal cell nevus syndrome will depend on your specific symptoms. If you have cancer, your doctor may recommend that you see an oncologist (cancer specialist) for treatment. If you have the condition but do not develop cancer, your doctor may recommend that you see a dermatologist (skin doctor) on a regular basis. The dermatologist will be able to examine your skin to detect skin cancer before it reaches a life-threatening stage.
People who develop tumors in their jaws will need to have surgery to remove them. Symptoms such as intellectual disability may be treated through services to improve the person’s capabilities and quality of life. Services can include:
- Special education
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Speech and language therapy
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage basal cell nevus syndrome?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with basal cell nevus syndrome:
- Avoid excess exposure to the sun and to take proper precautions when in the sun (e.g. using sunscreen, sunglasses)
- Exposure to therapeutic levels of ionizing radiation should be avoided.
- This syndrome can be emotionally difficult for patients. Frequent doctor visits, recurrent cancers and surgeries, and the resulting scars can take a toll on patients. It is important to address this burdenand create a strong support network.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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Nevoid Basal Cell Carcinoma Syndrome. https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/nevoid-basal-cell-carcinoma-syndrome/. Accessed February 26, 2019.
Basal Cell Nevus Syndrome. https://www.healthline.com/health/basal-cell-nevus-syndrome. Accessed February 26, 2019.
Overview of Basal Cell Nevus Syndrome. https://skincancer.net/clinical/basal-cell-nevus-syndrome/. Accessed February 26, 2019.
Gorlin basal cell nevus syndrome: diagnosis and management. https://www.clinicaladvisor.com/home/topics/dermatology-information-center/gorlin-basal-cell-nevus-syndrome-diagnosis-and-management/. Accessed February 26, 2019.
Review Date: February 26, 2019 | Last Modified: February 26, 2019