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Adv Exp Med Biol. 2008;624:162-78. doi: 10.1007/978-0-387-77574-6_13.

UV damage and DNA repair in malignant melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer.

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  • 1Clinic for Dermatology, Venerology and Allergology, The Saarland University Hospital, 66421 Homburg/Saar, Germany.


Exposition of the skin with solar ultraviolet radiation (UV) is the main cause of skin cancer development. The consistently increasing incidences of melanocytic and nonmelanocytic skin tumors are believed to be at least in part associated with recreational sun exposure. Epidemiological data indicate that excessive or cumulative sunlight exposition takes place years and decades before the resulting malignancies arise. The most important defense mechanisms that protect human skin against UV radiation involve melanin synthesis and active repair mechanisms. DNA is the major target of direct or indirect UV-induced cellular damage. Low pigmentation capacity in white Caucasians and rare congenital defects in DNA repair are mainly responsible for protection failures. The important function of nucleotide excision DNA repair (NER) to protect against skin cancer becomes obvious by the rare genetic disease xeroderma pigmentosum, in which diverse NER genes are mutated. In animal models, it has been demonstrated that UVB is more effective to induce skin cancer than UVA. UV-induced DNA photoproducts are able to cause specific mutations (UV-signature) in susceptible genes for squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC). In SCC development, UV-signature mutations in the p513 tumor suppressor gene are the most common event, as precancerous lesions reveal approximately 80% and SCCs > 90% UV-specific p53 mutations. Mutations in Hedgehog pathway related genes, especially PTCH1, are well known to represent the most significant pathogenic event in BCC. However, specific UV-induced mutations can be found only in approximately 50% of sporadic BCCs. Thus, cumulative UVB radiation can not be considered to be the single etiologic risk factor for BCC development. During the last decades, experimental animal models, including genetically engineered mice, the Xiphophorus hybrid fish, the south american oppossum and human skin xenografts, have further elucidated the important role of the DNA repair system in the multi-step process of UV-induced melanomagenesis. An increasing body of evidence now indicates that nucleotide excision repair is not the only DNA repair pathway that is involved in UV-induced tumorigenesis of melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer. An interesting new perspective in DNA damage and repair research lies in the participation of mammalian mismatch repair (MMR) in UV damage correction. As MMR enzyme hMSH2 displays a p53 target gene, is induced by UVB radiation and is involved in NER pathways, studies have now been initiated to elucidate the physiological and pathophysiological role of MMR in malignant melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer development.

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